Church’s environment commission calls for quota on fireworks

Church’s strongest call yet for limits on fireworks to curb noise pollution, deaths from pyrotechnic accidents.

One of the funerals for fireworks factory victims in the 2010 tragedy in Gharb. The Church has called for limits on the volume of production.
One of the funerals for fireworks factory victims in the 2010 tragedy in Gharb. The Church has called for limits on the volume of production.

The Maltese archdiocese's commission for the environment has issued a general call for greater control on the volume of fireworks produced by enthusiasts gearing up for the summer season of patron saints' feasts.

"The time has come to consider establishing a legal quota on the volume of fireworks let off during feasts, in a bid to safeguard public health on the Maltese islands," the commission said in a new report on Church feasts.

It's the strongest recommendation yet from the local Catholic Church to control as aspect of the traditional religious feasts that are often part of so called "external celebrations" that are not strictly within the church's pastoral control.

"We need detailed studies on the impact of the chemicals being used, their levels in the overall environment, and the possibility of using less risky chemicals.

"We also need a public, technical and scientific discussion on our recommendation that is sincere, rational and without excess emotion, and that respects the work of genuine volunteers who want to reach higher stands in this work."

The Church's environment commission's previous reports on village feasts previously called attention to the high rate of deaths in the production of fireworks, noise pollution, and the high volume of perchlorate chemical that is found in the ground and water during the summer season from the airborne combustion of the fireworks.

"The commission has in the past made a sincere appeal to the civil authorities to establish better rules that controls the production of fireworks. We appreciate the recent guidelines issued by the Church and the pastoral note on fireworks, especially in the light of the village rivalry and pique that patron saints' feasts tend to generate."

But the commission said Malta retained the highest rate of deaths from pyrotechnic accidents in all Europe, and that the deaths were unrelated to chemical composition of the fireworks but to added work pressure, a decreasing attention to the quality of work, and experimentation on the chemical mix.

"July is the month during which most deaths have occurred over the past 30 years, due to the high demand for fireworks. Factories often increase production and have problems related to the lack of space to store their completed work, and move on to produce other fireworks. The need for more revenue to cover expenses has increased in a bid to sell more fireworks," the commission said.

"The price we have paid for this national pastime has been too high, and if we want to control these risks we need a serious reform. This is not just an industry that is good for tourism - we need to respect the lives of those who produce fireworks before another life is lost," the commission said.

The commission also pointed out increased levels of aluminium, barium, brass, and strontium during the summer months, especially potassium perchlorate - the main oxiding agent used to propel fireworks. Around 2,000 to 3,000 kilogrammes are imported to Malta every year.

"A small part of this chemical will always end up in soil and water, and studies we conducted in 2009 showed the average level in August was of 167 particulate matter for Gozo and 253ppm in Malta, which then decreased to 9 and 17ppm in Gozo and Malta during December. One can only assume the main source of perchlorate burnt during summer feasts contributes to these levels," the commission said.

Unfortunately it seems that the Church has lost its trust in this country as when they speak about an issue there is always a hidden agenda, it is either feelers for someone else to start a discussion about something which serves as an opinion poll or else there is something that will tend to reduce their power or financial income. It would be better if they talk about the levels & standards that we have adopted during the last 25years, debts, debts & more debts while the majority of our people are getting poorer while a few get richer. When will the church talk constantly about these issues? when hunger becomes evident? Do we have to reach a state or situation for you to talk about the issue that is degenerating our society moral and way of living standards.
Mark Fenech
But why is this issue being raised now by the Church Environment Commission. Late April and early May we had fireworks by local and international fireworks factories on daily basis and no one raised this issue. Now that we are starting the Local Festive Season, we raise this environment issue as only the local fireworks factory damage the environment, the foreign fireworks factories create no damage to the environment, if we use this logic.