Why this Italian town is switching to silent fireworks

Fireworks are fabulous, but one of their drawbacks is that the noise they generate can scare pets and wildlife and stress them out. One Italian town, Collecchio in the province of Parma, has devised a solution to this problem, as it has introduced legislation that insists on silent fireworks in its displays.

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A town in Italy is switching to silent fireworks to avoid frightening dogs. Image: Joe Drivas

Pet owners usually stay away from firework displays, because dogs are particularly prone to noise phobia. The new law in Collechio endeavours to reduce the stress of fireworks on pets and local wildlife, and it also means that local owners can join in the celebrations rather than staying home to comfort scared pets. Italian fireworks company, Setti Fireworks, specialises in making customised silent fireworks, and while they may lack the explosive sounds we traditionally expect from fireworks, they retain all of the stunning colours and impressive visual displays that illuminate the skies.

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New Year's over Tower Bridge, London. Image by Getty Images/franckreporter

It is well-known that dogs can panic and run away when scared by the noise of fireworks or thunder, but this reaction has also been observed among birds and wildlife, often with tragic consequences. On New Year's Eve 2010 in Beebe, Arkansas, up to 5000 deceased red-winged blackbirds fell from from the sky, and fireworks were blamed. Lab results revealed “acute physical trauma” in samples of the dead birds, and officials believe they were so distressed by local fireworks displays, they flew into chimneys and trees as they tried frantically to escape. Further research by MIT scientists captured a temperature reversal just above the birds' roosting area, which acted like a megaphone, amplifying the sounds of the fireworks exploding.

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Fireworks explode over the Hudson River, Manhattan. Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Humans can benefit from quiet fireworks too, and they are better for children or elderly people who dislike loud noises and those with sensitive hearing. It also means that firework displays can take place later in the night after celebrations, when traditionally they would disturb people's sleep. On this basis, quiet fireworks seem to be the way forward, and Collecchio is the town leading the way by example.

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