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Letter to the editor: There are many reasons to stop the use of fireworks

The nine days that many Jamestown residents dread, the yearly fireworks bombardment, has come to an end. Some liken Jamestown to a “war zone.” Others leave the city to avoid it. Sadly, the rest of us suffer through it. That’s because our City Council, with the exception of Councilman Dan Buchanan, refuses to even discuss the issue.

Much more than a matter of late-night noise, fireworks use is a public safety issue. Nationwide, approximately 10,000 emergency room visits occur due to fireworks use each year. About 600 of those are eye injuries, and roughly 100 of them result in permanent vision loss. Children under 15 account for about half of these injuries. Permanent hearing loss is another danger. Sounds over 85 decibels are considered unsafe to human ears. Many fireworks in use today are well above that 85 db threshold.

Fire is another danger. Fireworks cause approximately 20,000 fires per year across the U.S., including 1,000 total structures and 500 vehicles. The North Dakota Fire Chiefs Association supports banning the use of fireworks within any jurisdiction, siting preventable injuries and fires associated with the use of fireworks in our state.

Fireworks wreak havoc on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder which,  according to the Veterans Administration, affects more than 250,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets. VA doctors report fireworks can trigger anxiety in people with PTSD, causing anything from a startle to a full-blown panic attack or combat flashback.

The situation regarding our pets is dire also. In spite of medications and other steps families take to ease their distress, significant numbers of dogs and cats simply run away from home on July 4, the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Overwhelmed personnel have coined the term “July Fourth Dogs” to describe the situation. How many of these pets are reunited with their families is unclear.

The chemicals and heavy metals used in fireworks are not environmentally friendly. According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, fireworks contain at least 11 toxic elements, including lead, barium, cadmium and sulfur dioxide. Adding these to our air and water is harmful. Additionally, these chemicals can be toxic to children and pets if ingested.

In North Dakota, most cities the size of Jamestown or larger have totally banned fireworks. Two have severely restricted their use. Smaller cities have instituted a 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. cutoff, while in Jamestown we let it go on until midnight. Approximately 50 percent of North Dakota residents live in a jurisdiction where fireworks are banned.

Hopefully, it won’t take a serious injury or fire to get our City Council to pay attention. Let’s get Jamestown out of the Stone Age and into the 21st century.