This page was originally published as a leaflet by the NSCA (the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection Charity), now Environmental Protection UK.
Environmental Protection UK
44 Grand Parade
Tel: 01273 878770
Web site: http://www.environmental-protection.org.uk/ (link will open in a new window)
Fireworks are widely used to mark public and private celebrations, as well as traditional events. While adding excitement to occasions, fireworks can also frighten and disturb people and animals, cause annoyance, damage and impact on air quality.
Why worry about fireworks
Fireworks can frighten people and animals. In particular children and the elderly can be intimidated and scared by firework noise. Farm animals have been scared to death literally, and startled animals have been injured, killed and caused accidents when bolting. Disturbing domestic pets can also be dangerous as panicked cats can be vicious and destructive.
The bright colours and effects in fireworks are produced by a cocktail of chemicals. Fireworks emit light, heat and sound energy along with carbon dioxide and other gases and residues. The exact emissions will depend on the firework, but as gunpowder is a main component sulphur compounds are emitted along with small amounts of particulates, metal oxides and organic compounds (including minute amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans). On and around Bonfire Night (November 5th), there is often a noticeable increase in pollution from particulates and dioxins. Approximately 14% of UK dioxin emissions are produced around Bonfire Night - most of this coming from bonfires rather than fireworks. Current research indicates that deposits of pollutants from fireworks do not pose a risk to soil or water.
Fireworks are explosives and must be used with caution. Having fireworks at home can be great fun, as long as they are used safely. Figures show more children rather than adults get hurt by fireworks. Over the past five years over 350 pre-school children, some only a year old, were treated in hospital for fireworks injuries. For information on firework safety contact the Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), who co-ordinate national firework safety campaigns. They have produced a Firework Safety Code:
- Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114.
- Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks.
- Keep fireworks in a closed box.
- Follow the instructions on each firework.
- Light at arm's length, using a taper.
- Stand well back.
- Never go near a firework that has been lit. Even if it hasn’t gone off, it could still explode.
- Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them.
- Always supervise children around fireworks.
- Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
- Never give sparklers to a child under five.
- Keep pets indoors.
Fixed Penalty Notices
Throwing or setting off fireworks in the street is an offence under the Explosives Act 1875. This is enforced by the police, and a fixed penalty notice of £80 applies. Police can enforce a fixed penalty notice of £80 to anyone under 18 possessing a firework in a public place and for breach of the 11pm curfew on letting off fireworks.
It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to animals under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. A penalty of up to £5000 and/or 6 months in prison is enforceable by police, trading standards or the RSPCA. The Blue Cross have produced an advisory leaflet " Fireworks and Pets" which contains useful advice.
When can I use fireworks?
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing firework, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks. The regulations also prohibit the use of fireworks at night (11pm - 7am) in England and Wales, with extensions for the following festivals:
- Until 1.00am on the night of Chinese New Year
- Until 1.00am on the night of Diwali
- Until 1.00am on New Year's Eve
- Until midnight on 5 November
These regulations are to be enforced by the police. There is a penalty of up to £5000 or 6 months in prison for breach of curfew.
Avoid Firework Frights
Fireworks add excitement and glamour to celebrations and are enjoyed by many. Large organised displays are used to celebrate state occasions, sporting events and also for family celebrations. Fireworks don't have to be ear splitting to be fun. We can enjoy them in safety, without causing annoyance to our neighbours and their pets and livestock or to wildlife. If you have your own firework display, remember that too much noise can frighten people and animals and that fireworks cause smoke and pollution. Follow these simple guidelines to reduce the risk of nuisance:
- Give neighbours a few days notice of your display - particularly important if they are elderly, have children or pets.
- Use appropriate fireworks - when buying fireworks, try to avoid really noisy ones. Your supplier should be able to tell you what they are selling.
- Make sure pets and other animals are safely away from fireworks.
- Consider timing. If you are using fireworks for a celebration, a Friday or Saturday is preferable, and make sure they are over by 11pm.
- Avoid letting off fireworks in unsuitable weather - if it is still and misty or air quality is poor, pollution could be a problem. Check air quality on 0800 556677 or at airquality.co.uk.
- Let off your fireworks in an open garden area - noise bounces off buildings and smoke and pollution can build up in enclosed spaces.
- If a neighbour complains that you are disturbing them, their pets or livestock, be considerate.
- After your display, clear up firework fallout and dispose of it safely.