Rockets Red Glare: Silent Fireworks Do a Bang-Up Job

An explosion of bright bursts of and blues in the night sky can draw the eyes of summer beachgoers, evoking an “ooh,” and perhaps an “ah” from those who watch fireworks over the sky. The rising popularity of silent fireworks displays are aimed to entertain with rich color displays, with no noise.

A number of Fire Island communities celebrate different summer events with fireworks displays. Cherry Grove celebrates their Pride Parade with fireworks, Saltaire has a fireworks show in August for their annual music and arts festival, and Point O’ Woods’ unveils fireworks in their Fourth of July celebration.

According to an English brand of silent fireworks, Epic Fireworks, quiet fireworks are not completely silent. They do vary greatly, however, compared to the average 150 decibels of noise that emerge when a firework is shot into the sky.

“I’d be interested in learning a bit more about the concepts behind silent fireworks,” Mario Posillico, village administrator of Saltaire, said. “I had never heard of them before. We already have our contract set for our fireworks display this year, but we are always open to ideas.”

The World Health Organization names the pain threshold for sound at 120 decibels and recommends that adults be exposed to no more than 140 decibels.

The director of Epic Fireworks, Paul Singh, said in an interview with The New York Times that, “The fireworks he uses in quiet shows are softer than the music he plays to accompany the visuals.” His company has created a display of visual fireworks to be enjoyed by the elderly at senior citizen homes.

Noise exposure is the leading cause of hearing loss in the U.S., according to the Noise and Health journal. Noise induced hearing loss also is the leading service disability of veterans.

In their mission statement, Epic Fireworks calls upon pets and animals or young and elderly relatives as their target market. “[They] do not want bangs, screeches or whistles but still want to enjoy the fun that only fireworks can bring.”

According to PETA, a known advocate for silent fireworks, animal shelters report an influx of lost cats and dogs after fireworks displays. Frightened animals may try to escape in a panic because of the blasts of noise that fireworks bring.

In an interview with Hawaii News Now, PETA Spokesman Colin Henstock said, “When around fireworks, dogs panic and are known to jump through glass windows, jump over fences, get lost or even killed.”

Nearly one in five pets go missing in the United States each year because of their fear of the sounds fireworks create, according to a report published by the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Experts have also documented nesting birds and other small mammal parents uncharacteristically abandoning their nests after an Independence Day fireworks display in Mendocino County, California, according to The Los Angeles Times.

While rising in popularity, silent fireworks do not employ any newly invented form of noise-suppressing technology. Rather, Fantastic Fireworks, also an English company, began selling silent fireworks 30 years ago.

In classic fireworks shows, silent fireworks are routinely used to apply visuals to the loud bangs. The popular “comet tail” firework that streaks across the sky and sparkles before it fades is technically a silent firework, according to a Snopes fact check regarding the legitimacy of silent fireworks.

According to a proposal to ban fireworks in Edinburgh, Scotland, a fireworks display that consists solely of silent fireworks is limited in height. A silent fireworks display also has a reduced impact in terms of the drama and spectacle that is commonly associated with large-scale fireworks displays because of the science behind silent fireworks.

Edinburgh is not alone in proposing to ban on fireworks. A number of cities have begun passing legislation to ban fireworks displays for a number of environmental and health reasons.