The Law on Fireworks
The laws regarding fireworks have changed.
There are now laws about when they can be sold, when they can be let off, how loud they can be, and how old you must be to buy them.
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 pets 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(1), metal oxides and organic compounds (including minute amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins(2) 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.
(1). Particulates are finely divided materials which are dispersed into the air from combustion, industry and natural sources. They can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Larger particles are trapped by the body’s defence system. Smaller particles are more hazardous. They can penetrate deeper into the lung tissue and cause problems for anyone with asthma or similar conditions and for those with heart problems.
(2). Dioxins are found everywhere – in water, soil and the atmosphere. They are pollutants from industrial processes and burning, and also from natural sources like volcanoes and forest fires. They accumulate in the environment and high concentrations have been linked to cancer and other health problems.
Fireworks are explosives and must be used with caution. In the 2003 Firework season 1136 people received treatment for firework injuries. For information on firework safety contact the Department of Trade and Industry, who co-ordinate national firework safety campaigns.
When can I use Fireworks?
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing fireworks, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks. These regulations also prohibit the use of fireworks at night (11pm – 7am) in England and Wales, with extensions for the following festivals:
- Until 1am following the first day of Chinese New Year
- On November 5th until 12am
- Until 1am on the day following Diwali day
- Until 1am on the day following December 31st
- These regulations are to be enforced by the police
Penalty for breach of curfew is up to £5000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.
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 or 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:
- Tell neighbours well in advance – 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 11 pm latest
- Avoid letting off fireworks in unsuitable weather – if it is still and misty or air quality is poor pollution could be a problem. Strong winds can be hazardous. Check air quality on 0800 556677 or visit the Air Quality Archive website.
- 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
Who to Call?
The Police are responsible for dealing with problems from fireworks being let off, contact 01633 838999 or 01495 764711. Trading Standards are responsible for dealing with the illegal sale of fireworks, contact 01633 647624.
Last Modified: 11/10/2021
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