Icelanders are big enthusiasts of setting off their own fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but the chemicals in the fireworks themselves are both toxic to humans and bad for the environment.
DV reports that Scandinavian research shows that many fireworks sold in the region contain hexachlorobenzene, or HCB, which has been banned globally under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. The chemical has been known to cause brain damage, cancer and hormonal imbalances.
Furthermore, nature.is points out that fireworks on New Years also contain high levels of other toxic chemicals in order to produce different colors, and that the fireworks are often manufactured in China, where few environmental controls exist. The resulting explosions set off by the fireworks releases great quantities of these toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, and furthermore litters the land and the sea with debris. The levels of air pollution during the height of the explosions and afterwards, in the capital area, are ten times greater than the healthy limit.
Icelandic law allows ordinary citizens to purchase fireworks, with proceeds often going to the Icelandic Rescue Squad. Icelanders fire about 1000 tonnes of fireworks every New Year’s Eve.