Opinion: Should Fireworks be Illegal in China?

The spring festival has just passed, “The Year of the Ox” has officially begun. Of course, being the biggest and the most celebrated festivity in China, Spring Festival is no different from previous years. Families were brought together to celebrate the coming of a brand new year. People celebrated and prayed that 2021 would be a year without troubles and worries. And fireworks, lots and lots of them, lit up the whole sky and awoke everyone including the celestial gods.  

However, there came a massive problem. In a city with no restrictions on fireworks, anyone can buy any type of fireworks and light them. Since my family usually prefers to stay inside and watch TV all night, I found the ceaseless and deafening fireworks somewhat annoying. The noise they produced was so loud that we couldn’t hear each other speaking. We had to turn the volume on our TV all the way up in order to hear the Spring Festival Gala. In addition, the smell of gunpowder was everywhere. Even with all the windows closed, it still smelled like a war zone during a peaceful family gathering. 

After the short and resplendent display of fireworks, the aftermath is all about pollution: noise pollution, air pollution, environmental pollution, and psychological pollution. 

Let me explain. Firstly, noise pollution. When you have a whole city of people lighting fireworks in one night, you can’t hear the person next to you. The continuous “boom” is damaging for anyone’s hearing. If there were only a few, the damage wouldn’t be so significant. Sometimes it could lead to “explosive deafness.” At first, it will “block” the high-pitched sounds, then lead to severe deafness. 

Secondly, psychological pollution. Although I made this phrase up, psychological damage is one of the results of noise pollution. Hearing these loud sounds constantly for nearly five days or so can cause some serious psychological effects. When I say “five days,” it is not an exaggeration, but an underestimation because, in Chinese culture, there is a tradition of lighting a firework each day of the lunar new year holiday. For example, lighting a firework on day one of the holiday could mean welcoming the money god; on day two it could be scaring away evil spirits, and on day three warding off misfortune and bringing good luck, and so on. Therefore, don’t expect a day of quiet until the fifteenth day after the new year. This constant noise pollution can cause many psychological effects such as sleep disturbance, impaired cognitive task performance, stress, and annoyance. 

Thirdly, air pollution. Fireworks release substances like sulfur dioxide, which can lead to acid rain. Nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, and sulfur trioxide are also products of fireworks. When their concentration in the air exceeds a certain level, they can irritate respiratory mucous membranes and damage lung tissues. This damage is no joke. Many people can also suffer symptoms pertaining to bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, and sometimes hypoxia, a dangerous condition that happens when your body doesn’t get enough oxygen.

Fourthly, environmental pollution. The solid residue of fireworks, such as the packaging, is left behind everywhere. After one night, the street is full of trash. People’s behaviors are the same as when they throw paper and plastic bags around. Sanitation workers on the road have to spend much time cleaning up after the public. Remember, there are still powders left in those packages. These powders go right into the workers’ lungs, or if left on the street, into the lungs of other people passing by. 

Last but not least, there are safety hazards from explosives. Black powder and chemistry don’t always work flawlessly. Some unplanned explosions can cause severe burns, mostly on the hands and sometimes in the eyes. There are still cases where some naive children throw fireworks down the sewage drains. Methane and other combustible gases in those drains explode with just a single spark. Many times people are lucky, while in other cases, it could cause a catastrophe. 

So, after reading all of the adverse effects of fireworks, the beautiful and dazzling fireworks don’t seem so beautiful now, do they? 

However, I am not saying that fireworks are entirely bad and we shouldn’t use them at all. Conversely, fireworks are an essential part of Chinese culture, and we should honor this part of our culture instead of outlawing fireworks entirely. So my solution to this problem is restricting the amount and types of fireworks people can use. Also, allow people to have only several fireworks that have little pollution and are not a safety hazard. As for the big fireworks that can do more overall damage, the government should set a location far away from residential houses and any flammable materials to shoot these fireworks. Therefore, the fireworks would be handled by professionals, and the amount being lit could be reduced. This would assure that people could safely enjoy the bright, dazzling, and charming tradition of the holiday fireworks. 

Happy New Year!