CAMPAIGNERS PUSHING for restrictions on the use if Fireworks in the UK have thrown their weight behind a move to reduce the noise level of fireworks. As reported in a previous issue of OUR dogS, the RSPCA recently unveiled a range of "quiet fireworks" and is calling for any firework louder than 95 decibels - the clap of a book landing on a table from one metre high - to be banned by a Private Member's Bill.
Bill Tynan, the Labour MP who introduced the Bill, said the aim was to curb hooligan use of fireworks and to protect children and the elderly, as well as pets and other animals which suffer due to extreme firework noise in the weeks up to and beyond Bonfire Night.
His Bill would enable ministers to ban the lighting of fireworks after 11pm and restrict sales to licensed outlets. Critics have complained it has no proposal to ban the sale of fireworks to minors, although this clause is likely to be added by an amendment during Select Committee stage.
Mr Tynan said he was satisfied with European standards that limit pyrotechnics to 120 decibels, equivalent to a loud car horn. But the RSPCA has seized on the Bill to call for a ban on bangers, rockets and the loudest devices.
Independent campaigner Theresa Kulkarni, who is running a petition to restrict the use of fireworks - due to be presented to No.10 Downing Street next month - feels that the RSPCAs noise proposals do not go far enough.
"Anything over 85 decibels can cause damage, according to scientific research," says Kulkarni. "A normal conversation takes place at 60 decibels. The RSPCA is calling for a 95 decibel limit on firework noise. But consider also that Animals hearing is far more sensitive than ours. Although each bang lasts only a short time the effect is cumulative and displays often go on for an hour. That means that exposure times for safety are already being violated by current Firework guidelines and nothing in the RSPCA proposal will change that."
In 2002, Noel Tobin, Director of National Campaign for Firework Safety became aware of the increase in complaints about the amount of noise fireworks make. He commissioned the groundbreaking survey 'Noisy Fireworks'.
This survey destroyed the argument the Firework Industry has maintained over firework noise. Fireworks and the amount of loudness they make are a very strong selling feature.
The Firework Industry ruthlessly exploits the noise factor. 'Could be heard five miles away' an advertising tag is perhaps one of the worst.
These fireworks are sold to be discharged at night, when their loudness is most noticeable due to the absence of other sounds. The firework industry has agreed to the maximum noise a firework can make. The maximum is 120dB(A). This figure is well above those recommended.
The National Campaign for Firework Safety released in 2002 a survey entitled 'Fireworks 2001'. This survey chronicled the almost daily events of people being subjected to firework noise. Last week the group released its study 'Fireworks 2002', which again highlights the almost daily abuse we suffer from fireworks.
The report states:
"Fireworks in the UK must conform to BS7114. But this British Standard does not state a maximum sound level. So the Firework Industry have had no bar to the amount of noise a firework can make. For years many organisations, including many animal welfare groups concerned about the level of firework noise on animals, have called for a maximum noise level to be set.
With the coming of new European Standards on Fireworks pressure was put on to bring in such a maximum. A compromise of 120dB(A)I has been agreed for all fireworks, apart from rockets. These fireworks can, and will, be made to cater for those who want their fireworks to be heard five miles away.
Whilst this compromise is for the European Standard, the United Kingdom can impose an 'A-deviation' on an individual firework if they deem the firework is too loud.
In today's world where the steadily increasing environmental sound pushes the daily level closer to the damaging 85 decibel level. We should not be exposed to products making noises over and above that level. Particularly a noise that can be easily controlled in the design process of the product. This should apply to all products not just fireworks. Fireworks should not be excluded on the grounds of entertainment, because unwanted noise does more damage than sound.
Some fireworks sound pressure levels of 120dB(A) will be as loud as, or louder than a high speed train 105-110dB(A), a jet aeroplane taking off at 100 metres away 110-115dB(A), and Military low-level flights 105 - 120dB(A).
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in their 'Quiet Please' survey recommends a maximum sound level for fireworks at 95dB(A). This they deem to be a compromise between causing anxiety to animals and the pleasure fireworks bring.
With hearing damage possible even for short-term noise exposure at 120dB(A) it seems ludicrous that we allow someone else's fireworks to do damage to our own hearing.
Teresa Kulkarni, like many people around the country, thinks its high time the Government took action to ban the retail sale of fireworks and to limit the use of fireworks to formal, licensed displays at set dates of the year.
I became actively involved in the issue after seeing how my own animals suffer, says Miss Kulkarni, 38 from Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Also, working in a pet shop I get to hear how other peoples pets suffer thanks to fireworks also. I have two dogs and one cat, all of which are terrified of fireworks and its sheer hell for several weeks of the year. Its not just Bonfire Night nowadays, its Diwali, New Year its constant noise and fear for animals and people alike, at all hours of the day and night.
Kulkarni adds that she was shocked when she started investigating the horrors of fireworks at just how many incidents involving fireworks are deliberate, with animals and elderly people being the prime targets of abuse.
Kulkarni has set up her own website which has an ongoing petition calling on the Government to ban the retail sale of fireworks with the exception of licensed displays only. The petition will run until June 28th 2003, and has, to date, attracted over 69,000 signatures from people all over the UK.
A number of sympathetic MPs including Labours Bill Tynan and David Crausby, together with Tory Teddy Taylor have backed Kulkarnis petition and are hoping to concentrate the Governments mind to allow Tynans Bill sufficient Parliamentary time to become law after presenting the petition to Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Any kind of voluntary action on fireworks just wont work, declares Kulkarni, referring to the voluntary ban by the Firework Industry on loud exploding mortars and screecher rockets that came into effecting January this year.. People will still get them on the black market or shops will openly sell them. The law only allows people over 18 to be fined for misusing fireworks, which is ludicrous, seeing as people under 18 commit over half of the offences.
The law as it stands says that a police officer must see someone light a firework, detonate it and then they must gather the evidence before action can be taken against that person.
The police cant enforce anything they are hard pushed to enforce any laws as it is.
Terrorists operating in this country dont need to smuggle in explosives they can buy them over the counter in any shop!
The petition will be handed into No 10 Downing Street on July 8th by Teresa Kulkarni and Bill Tynan.
Teresa Kulkarnis petition to ban the retail sale of fireworks is open until June 28th 2003 and may be found online at: http://freespace.virgin.net/nicholas.k
or write to Ms Kulkarni at:
1 Methuen Avenue, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, PE30 4BN. Tel: 01553-775461