Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Fireworks not all fun and games

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Columnist

Blowing up fireworks is a pile of fun for a lot of us, but it's also a pile of trouble for the environment, and for many people.

A caller responded recently when this column suggested ways of having more environmentally friendly holidays.

"Do something about the fireworks," she said.

If fireworks traditionally were designed to scare away evil spirits, they also scare a lot of other things.

Pet owners each New Year's and Fourth of July report lost dogs and lost cats, which wander away disoriented, or ditch the neighborhood in a panic. Some are killed in traffic.

There are arguments that birds fly out to sea to avoid the noise and smoke, and sometimes don't make it back. A flap erupted several years ago over the launching of a major fireworks display from Popoi'a Island bird sanctuary (aka Flat Island) off Kailua.

After the New Year's celebration in 2000, birds were found dead on Kailua Beach, perhaps because of panic at the noise or light flashes and perhaps because of the effects of clouds of firework smoke.

The smoke banks also cause trouble for people with allergies and breathing problems. The smoke contains a tossed salad of chemicals, some of them toxic. In addition to major compounds, sulfur and carbon, there are lots of chemicals used to create the colors in fireworks: barium compounds for green, lithium and strontium salts for red, sodium for yellow, strontium and copper for purple.

The firework industry is developing low-smoke displays, which should improve the lung irritation problems.

Suzanne Jones, recycling coordinator for the City and County of Honolulu, warns firework users to keep them away from the trash cans, where they can start fires in all that holiday paper.

Also in response to the column, folks wrote to suggest ways of reducing the paper content of the holiday season.

Instead of wrapping gifts, said one, use attractive — and reusable — gift bags.

"They save a lot of time otherwise spent wrapping, and with odd-shaped gifts, it's much easier to make the gift look good as well," wrote Nobu Nakamoto of 'Aiea.

Many of us are still sending lots of Christmas cards, which are a nice way to keep up with friends, family and associates. For many, a photo card provides a visual update on growing families we might not see regularly.

But you can save a stamp, an envelope and a card by sending an e-mail greeting. You can even include a picture that's easy to print or store on the hard drive.

Jan TenBruggencate is The Advertiser's Kaua'i Bureau Chief and its science and environment writer. Reach him at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074 . (He's on vacation during the holidays.)