By the Youth Environmental Alliance Team
The fourth of July is a time to celebrate US independence, however, for many people, pets, and wildlife species, it is anything but a celebration due to the level of noise pollution.
Noise pollution is harmful or annoying levels of sound, a real environmental issue, usually coming from industry, gas powered landscaping equipment, cars, planes etc. But during Independence Day celebrations, the amount of noise emitted from fireworks can cause hearing loss, death of birds, stress reactions from people suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatized pets.
Noise pollution is measured in decibels, a scale ranging from 0dB, like that heard in a deep underground cave when no one is talking, to 320dB like that of the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora whose force was equivalent to a 14,000 megaton bomb. A noise measure that you may be familiar with is that of a lawnmower which emits about 90dB. Well human ears can tolerate up to about 75dB without issue, but after that, the damage begins. The World Health Organization lists 120dB as the human pain threshold, fireworks emit about 145-150dB of sound, similar to that of gunfire, causing hearing damage.
Veterans, noise sensitive children and gunshot victims may be triggered by fireworks which sound like bomb explosions and gun shots. Although people suffering from PTSD may have coping mechanisms to deal with the noise of fireworks, when they are going off at all hours of the night and at 2 AM wake people from a deep sleep, coping with that shock is not always possible.
If you own a dog, you are probably very aware of the trauma they experience when the fireworks start, poor dogs running around randomly, eyes wide, panting, trying to find somewhere safe and quiet. This is almost impossible in some neighborhoods, when fireworks are all around. In states like Florida, where fireworks are legal, they start days before and continue well after July 4. This stress can cause PTSD for pets too as well as illness and loss. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that 1 in 5 pets go missing each year after being scared and running because of fireworks and loud noises.
Wildlife too is impacted by fireworks. Shorebirds birds may be scared off of nests and not return, and roosting (sleeping) birds may take flight and run into buildings and trees because of poor night vision. There was an instance in Arkansas where 5000 red-winged blackbirds were killed because the flock panicked during a firework show and ran into obstacles. Other larger mammals can be scared into roads and then hit by cars. Fireworks also block out the sounds of animals that are trying to communicate with one another, from insects to birds. It is like when we try to talk to someone at a loud concert. But the animals do not have the option to shout into eachother’s ears just to get a point across. Noise pollution can also prevent predators and prey from hearing one another and can cause populations of animals to decline.
So how do we celebrate our independence in a fun and responsible way?
No matter what the weather, the easiest way to decrease firework noise pollution is to Google "activities near me" and go to shows that are already scheduled instead of adding your own firework show into the mix.
If you want to have a personal celebration, choose fireworks that are quiet, like colorful comets, fountains, sparklers, smoke bombs and other “silent fireworks” that are eco-friendly products. Then shoot off fireworks for a short time and end by 9pm and only on July 4.
In Canada and Europe silent fireworks are being mandated by legislation in many towns and countries and are available for purchase online by a variety of suppliers. We can follow suit and be independent of harmful noise pollution.