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Patriotic incendiary devices: Toxic for health, manufactured in sweatshops

Thinking about going down to the River to watch the fireworks tonight? Think again. Turns out those beautiful showers of colorful sparks can be carrying any of the following chemicals: potassium nitrate, barium chlorate, arsenic, strontium nitrate, potassium perchlorate, copper oxide, sodium bicarbonate, carbon, sulphur, perchlorate, aluminium powder. Exposure to these chemicals can cause hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells), acute renal failure, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea, shallow breathing, convulsions, coma and death from respiratory or cardiac failure, benign pneumoconiosis (a lung disease caused by inhaling dust), muscular paralysis, arterial hypertension and profound hypokalaemia, and corrosion of the skin and other tissues from topical contact and acute pulmonary oedema or chronic obstructive lung disease.

As if all that weren't enough, dioxins, which are known cancer-causing agents, are also produced by firework displays. So stay home and watch from your roof. If you can smell the gunpowder, you're too close.

Thinking about buying a load of aerials, spinners, fountains, roman candles, and lady fingers and setting them off in your driveway? Think again. The number one manufacturer of firecrackers in the world is China; incendiary devices are produced in dangerous sweatshops there, often by children. The BBC reports that between February 1998 and December 2001 at least 171 people were killed -- 48 of them children -- and 25 injured in explosions while making fireworks in China. During the same period, deaths also occured at fireworks factories in Portugal, Pakistan, Spain, the Netherlands, Peru, and Brasil.

One of these incidents, in March 2001, happened in a primary school in the Jiangzi province of China, where students were making fireworks in their classrooms. According to the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation, "the children were not paid, and if they refused to work their families were fined". The neo-liberal "modernization" of China has forced people off their land and into factories. Whether it's shoes, electronics or firecrackers, the story remains the same and it's not about freedom or independence, the values ostensibly being celebrated this July 4th. [ Read more... ]