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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...

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...

[This is a repost of a Fourth of July feature on portland indymedia from last year.]

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... ]

Help-cant breathe 04.Jul.2003 22:21


Goin down the river?! Hell Im a long ways away and it sounds like WW3 here with volleys coming from all directions. The stench is getting stronger by the minute and I just read your post so shut all the windows. This is ridiculous. I should go up to the roof though with a bucket of water cuz I saw some sparks land in my neighbors yard. This trench sucks.

grumble grumble 04.Jul.2003 23:16


I don't get the fascination. Every July, my neighborhood is riddled by dozens of explosions literally everyday until the early hours of the morning. Yuppie suburb kids with no culture, nowhere to go, nothing fun to do but blow up the insane amount of fireworks that absentee mommy and daddy bought them to pacify them during the school vacation. I mean, WTF? How easily are these kids amused? Don't they ever get bored? I fully expect this crap to go on until 2am tonight, if not longer. I'd feel sorry for them if I wasn't so annoyed.

I wonder how many of them even know what the First Amendment says.

And the walls came tumbling down... 05.Jul.2003 05:42



Good clean fun 05.Jul.2003 08:52


Why don't you folks choose your battles a little better. People have a natural facsination with fire, etc... One day a year of smoke and noise isn't going to wreck the planet. Independance day is worth celebrating. Haven't you seen the sticker "If I can't dance I dont want to be part of the revolution" Tell me truthfully- you've sat up close to a professional pyrotechnics display and didnt enjoy the festive noise and beautiful colored light show?
Anyways, if you were not so immature you could channel your energy into speaking out against the horrible regime presently running our great nation, rather than bashing the average joe citizen for being normal.
The "professional" fireworks display serves to remind us that we really do live in the best place on earth- let's all work to take it back from the bushies.

How Dare You!! 05.Jul.2003 11:28


I realize this is way off subject but I am sick and tired of people abusing the only Emma Goldman quote they seem to know. Before you go quoting her you should actually read something by her. Maybe then all of these fairweather "activists" would understand what she meant by that quote and stop using it as their cop out for everything. Emma earned the moments that she danced with hard work. She didn't go around dancing and calling it a revolution! She most certainly would NOT have approved of children being exploited in dangerous factories. She would have militantly fought hard to do away with such conditions, if she knew of their existence. She also probably would have criticized harshly the folks who stood mouth agape in awe of toxic explosions lighting up the sky, if she knew of their toxicity. Say what you like just stop distorting and destroying Emma's message!!!

I used to like fireworks... 05.Jul.2003 11:56


I used to like fireworks when i was a kid, although not nearly as much as my siblings, who spent much of their time building bombs out of them. I have always been a bit distrustful of them, carrying the hose around with me when everyone was lighting fireworks, etc. My family found this very funny until one year my lil bro and his friend managed to set the trees in front of my house ON FIRE, where we spent a good amount of time battling six foot flames shooting up to my window until the fire department got there. And this year, all i've noticed is that fireworks terrify my dog to the point that i have to carry her around with me, my cats are freaked, and during my strolls at night my eyes water and i can't breathe because of the smoke. But it's the amerikan way; ignore the people suffering to make the product, spend a lot of money in an orgasm of crass consumerism to buy the product, endanger all species burning the product, all in the name of celebrating the great country.
Has anyone thought of how morbid it is to imulate bombs in celebration?

Buh 05.Jul.2003 15:14

Anonymous or Made Up!

I agree that buying fireworks supports a terrible and dangerous industry, and ever since I was old enough to notice I've thought that celebrating America with Chinese fireworks is too ironic for words . . .but. . .really. . .I've seen anti-drinking and anti-fireworks posts on IndyMedia in the last few days. And turning it into an argument of "all people who like fireworks are cro-magon fire-worshipping idiots" or "everyone who drinks is an alcoholic simpleton who supports sexist corporations" is not going to do anything but reinforce the picture that many people have of activists -- that we're all a bunch of snobby, holier-than-thou bastards who want to take all the fun out of everyone's lives. Especially with anarchists - it's hard to argue that you want a truly free anarchist society while you're trying to browbeat and guilt trip people into following your PC code.

I understand that in order for any sort of major change in this world we need to change the behaviors of a large number of people, but I believe in providing the facts on such issues and letting people make their own decisions. The above argument that fireworks are full of deadly toxic chemicals like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and carbon (the building block of life) reeks of misinformation and reminds me of that piece about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide. Lying to or misinforming people builds mistrust and destroys your arguments and credibilty once you're found out (see PeTA's milk vs beer campaign).

I am one of these crazy activist kids and no troll, but I'm really sick of seeing so much moral highgrounding and so many spurious arguments when there's more than enough good honest reasons out there to convince people of your point. And I think we have bigger fish to fry right now than this. Fireworks are already banned or illegal in most American cities due to the direct danger of blowing off various body parts and even in my short lifetime I've seen a hell of a lot less people lighting them off. Most people are bored by the large displays anyway and spend the weekend BBQing (and therefore consuming large quantities of carbon) and drinking (lord, no!).

Hmm? 05.Jul.2003 15:23

another anonymous

BBQing murdered animals treated with life-threatening antibiotics and GMO's? Drinking and then deciding, hey, i can drive home, getting in their car and running over a few kids out for an innocent bike ride? sounds like good clean fun to me.

Buh, Part II 05.Jul.2003 18:41

Anonymous or Made Up

Well, personally, I'm vegan and I don't own a car or drive, but I think you kind of missed the point of what I was saying there. . .

Choosing Your Battles 05.Jul.2003 21:39


I would also agree that it is important to pick your battles and not be too self righteous. There's nothing wrong with
partaking in mind altering substances if you enjoy them safely both to yourself and towards others. Also, the chemicals
mentioned as ingredients in fireworks essentially rain down as fertilizer for your garden. The raw ingredients are mostly hazards
from the standpoint of their reactivity, not so much their toxicity. They can explode - duh. If anything, the smoke might pose a problem for some asthmatics. I'm not much into fireworks because I heard too many in "Nam, and I don't care for the symbolism that forworks represent. However, that does not negate the need to let off steam once a year. It's an opportunity for neighbors get out and meet each other. We
should be celebrating the freedom from tyrany. I'm wondering how many people realize that we have been living under tyrany with the current administration.

dear researcher 05.Jul.2003 22:16

archives available to all

thought features were about original content
what is original about a "repost" from last year
television started with reruns decades ago
is this what imc's are going to turn to?

hmm 07.Jul.2003 00:39


I hope you all are careful w/ what you buy. You think fireworks are the only things made in sweatshops, there are more then just fireworks, 2 things that pop right into my mind would be soccer balls and shoes. I myself enjoy the 4th of July and buy fireworks, of course I don't buy the pretty ones I buy the ones that you can have fun with. My favorite would be sparklers, you would be amazed w/ what you can do w/ them. Me and my friends make sparkler bombs which are very fun and you and your friends can all enjoy the moment for awhile. Fireworks are meant to be fun, people love to watch them go off and be part of it by setting them off. If you can't understand that then I feel sorry for you for you have lost touch w/ your inner child. And for the one who was talking about kids setting them off at 2am in the morning, give them a break. They are kids wanting to have fun...or i suppose you would rather them go out and get drunk and drive home killing innocent people....or even better go out and buy some weed and smoke it all night long.

Get use to fireworks, they'll always be around and most certainally on the 4th of July. But do be safe, dont set them off next to trees or in dry grass.

Not a big deal, but represents something big 07.Jul.2003 05:12


Wait, lemme get this straight. I can't complain about kids setting off fireworks at 2am, when any teenie, tiny bit of common sense says, "hey, you'll wake people up who are trying to sleep at 2am?"

On one hand, this is a piddily, petty little issue. On the other hand, it's representative of a lot of what's wrong with America: Paying lipservice to democratic ideas in lue of feeling warm and fuzzy, the belief that happiness must be bought and consumed, art and entertainment without meaning and jingoistic symbolism. Yeah, fireworks are neat and it's certainly nice to huddle up with a loved one and watch the big show. But for crying out loud, do we have to ruin the good aspects by trying to push the BIGGER, BADDER, MORE EXPLOSIVE AND MORE LOUD NOISES envelope all the time? Give it a rest. If you've still got fireworks to blow by 1am and you're still excited, then there's something seriously wrong with your brain's "I'm bored now" circuit.

Some kids went to school on September 11, 2001 and, uncomprehending in what they were seeing, just went around saying, "HEY DID YOU SEE THAT COOL EXPLOSION? WOW, THAT WAS COOL!" Look at how many boys in our culture have pyromania and explosive fetishes. Wouldn't it aid us as a society to try to tune that number down a little by pointing out that things blowing up aren't really all that interesting, creative, or cool? I have yet to see an explosion that wasn't pretty much exactly the same as some other explosion.

I'm pretty sure that July 4th is up there with Halloween as far as animal torture holidays are concerned. I mean, you've got to stuff that extra cherry bomb somewhere, right?

Also, it's not just animals that are put on edge by fireworks. Explosions tweak people's nerves and not everybody has the same tolerence for loud noises. I don't like this feeling of being on edge, okay? In fact, I have an anxiety disorder and this stuff makes me extra irritable. I have a right to expect people to have enough common courtesy to respect that not everybody likes to listen to explosions all the time.

I'm not asking for some kind of anti-fireworks law. Not all change has to come from the state. I'm suggesting that maybe we, as a society, shouldn't worship exploding things so much.

not a big deal TO YOU 07.Jul.2003 09:51


I got a sort of ill feeling reading all of these posts about people saying callust things "like pick your battles" and "it's not that big of a deal". How easy it is for people like you riding high up on the hog of capitalism to say it's not such a big deal, let's only worry about the issues that affect us. Fire works are not so fun for the children who are forced to work long hours to make them. Fire works are not so fun for the people who are blown up several times a year working in dangerous firework factories. Anarchism is about the right for everyone to be free, NOT just white americans or any just anyother race or country. Everyone! Anyone who willingly contributes to the oppression of other people could not truthfully call themself an Anarchist. It's not about being elite or cool or following some PC code, it's about harm reduction. We want to cut out any unnecessary consumption that contributes to the suffering of others. Last time I checked fire works were not necessary to live.

I wish I could be as industrious as the Chink kids when I was in grade school 08.Jul.2003 08:03

spiroknavenine@yahoo.com spiroknavenine@yahoo.com

Public grade school in the USA for me was nothing more than another brick in the wall, and probably still is even worse with all the ritalin junkies that we keep turning out.

There was rarely anything nearly as creative in all my days of grade school as making fireworks, rather it seemed the days were spent with some underpaid childless sterile bigoted bitch trying to make the world pay for her bad lot of ovaries by insisting that success in the world meant we read, write and learn arithmetic by the rules of her games at her pace with every child neatly labeled and processed and all the manufacturing defects get chewed up and spit out.

It wasn't until high school chemistry that we learned anything about how fireworks are made, and that was only like a one or two day class.

but still??? 03.Sep.2003 18:04


The 4th of July is one thing. It's a great day to celebrate. But does freedom mean that people should be dicks just because they can? It's September 3rd and some people are _still_ blowing [themselves] off fireworks and encouraging their children to do the same. I'm not in the mood for a diplomatic distillation of what this is all about. I hate you.

FireWorks are fun 02.Jul.2004 11:58


You guys are dumb! Fireworks are cool and animals arent worth a shit but for our fooooooooood!!!

6694 NE pline dr