Firecrackers are dangerous

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I thank God that most people were ushered into the New Year without much discomfort and pain. I also wish to express my sincere condolences to families of children that drowned at Lake Chivero around the Christmas period.

That incident could have been avoided and I hope the law takes its course and makes the owners of speed boat pay for their alleged gross negligence and carelessness.

The festive season excites many people and I have decided to highlight the dangers of firecrackers which signal Christmastime and New Year.

Firecrackers can turn into an unplanned trip to an emergency room or at least a painful memory, when children and adults are injured. Even the more seemingly safe fireworks such as “sparklers,” have caused severe burns and eye injuries on children.

These firecrackers recently hurt two children whose eyes were lost completely when a firecracker was thrown into their faces.

An adult also lost one of his fingers to firecrackers in Beitbridge, a situation that demands quick intervention before more lives are lost. I personally had an altercation with hordes of children in my neighbourhood who randomly threw fireworks in our tiny gardens.

Firecrackers were available in abundance this year at many tuck shops in the Westgate and Tynwald North areas, a situation that irked many residents.

One night last week, I saw firecrackers flying all over my garden. I wondered what was happening because no one was at home that particular time. As I got nearer and nearer, I noticed children milling around a corner who were igniting these crackers.

I ordered them to go to their homes after threatening them with a thorough beating. But one of them immediately lit up one and threw it in my neighbour’s garden. I was so infuriated that I confronted the group of boys who ran away when I demanded to know why they were doing this.

I, however, identified some of the children and decided to do a follow at their homes. Their mothers were so defensive.

One of them actually said: “Yes my boys bought firecrackers, but they did not throw them in anyone’s garden.”

You can imagine my frustration when this was said to me. Parents are exposing children to such dangers because of ignorance. Fireworks are dangerous to people, animals, environment and property.

It is imperative for authorities to regulate sale of fireworks to avert disaster because far too many people let off firecrackers at home without recognising they are dealing with explosives.

It is little wonder things go wrong if people buy fireworks at the last minute, rush home with them and start igniting them without reading the instructions and without considering the safety implications.

In fact, all the firecrackers were sold at these tuckshops did not have any safety instructions to guide a user.

Firecrackerss are best exploded on properties that have large areas of land and not the 400 square metres that most houses are build on in Tynwald North.
Dogs barked viciously every time a firecracker exploded.

Roxy, my neighbour’s, experienced labour and delivered two puppies. One of the puppies died days later perhaps from shock. The puppies would yell every time a firecracker exploded.

Sometimes these dogs run and catch thrown fireworks in their mouths believing them to be toys. Curious pets can sniff or even attempt to ingest lit fireworks, resulting in severe burns on the face, mouth or even paws.

Many animals, according to Stop Fireworks — a South African body that strives to raise public awareness of the harm that fireworks inflict on people, domestic animals, wildlife and the environment, says animals are terrified of these explosions and break free or jump fences to try and escape the terror.

A frightened Max, my other neighbour’s dog, nearly jumped out of the walled property on Christmas Day.

UK-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RSPA) are said out of 972 firework accidents last year, 421 happened at family or private parties.

And more than half of these involved children aged below 16, even though it is illegal to sell fireworks to anyone under 18. Fireworks are elaborate explosves which are constructed in a shell that is firmly into the ground and pointed upward.

Stop Fireworks also says that fireworks have set fire to buildings: Fireworks also pose a great threat to homes with thatch roofing. “Fireworks have started grass and forest fire and produce light pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, debris and litter.

“Children are 11 times more likely to be injured by fireworks and people who stand too close to the fireworks run a high risk of being harmed. Fireworks explosions can cause deafness and epileptics can also experience seizures. People who suffer from asthma experience discomfort.”

A posting on NewsDay Website had this to say: “Firecrackers are a subtle means (by the enemy) to make our children get used to gun sounds and explosions from an early age.

“These youngsters will not fear gunshot sounds or explosions and they will not fear war. The government must step in to totally ban this foolishness. There are many better and enlightening ways of celebrating new years.”

But what constitutes a firecracker? A firecracker consists of gunpowder wrapped in paper, with a fuse. Gunpowder consists of 75% potassium nitrate (KNO3), 15% charcoal (carbon) or sugar, and 10% sulfur.

The materials will react with each other when enough heat is applied. Igniting the fuse supplies the heat to fire up a firecracker.

The charcoal or sugar is the fuel. Potassium nitrate is the oxidiser and sulfur moderates the reaction. Carbon (from the charcoal or sugar) plus oxygen (from the air and KNO3) forms carbon dioxide and energy.

KNO3, sulphur and carbon react to form nitrogen and carbon dioxide gases and potassium sulfide. The pressure from the expanding nitrogen and carbon dioxide explode the paper wrapper of a firecracker. The loud bang is the pop of the wrapper being blown apart.

Feedback: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw