ON DECEMBER 14, 2016, then Minister of Public Administration and Communications Maxie Cuffie met with executives of FireOne Fireworks to discuss government’s crackdown on scratch bombs and the illegal use of fireworks.
In a letter to Cuffie dated December 12, 2016, president of Animals 360 Foundation Inc Derek Mohammed called for fireworks to be banned, and failing that, legislation governing the use of fireworks should be strengthened and strictly enforced to ensure controlled and responsible use to protect our citizenry including our elderly, infirm, infants and animals. Cuffie had then assured there would be a crackdown on fireworks and — a favourite with young people — the scratch bomb. But, come every Divali and New Year’s Eve, loud explosions can be heard and the skies are brightly lit, many taking pleasure in the noise and colours, and not paying attention to the potential dangers posed by these seemingly harmless looking pieces of sticks and paper.
Over the years there have been reports on people being injured, especially by scratch bombs, which are lit and thrown in the air.
THE DAMAGE DONE
Two years ago, grandmother Sally-Ann Cuffie’s hands and face were injured after she tried to throw out a scratch bomb which landed in her car next to her six-month-old granddaughter. The bomb exploded in her hands.
Only last week on social media a young girl in a school uniform was caught on camera when she threw a lit scratch bomb into a clothing store. Scratch bombs were also blamed for a fire which destroyed three houses in Couva on Tuesday during Divali celebrations.
Head of surgery at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, Dr Ian Ramnarine said the devices may be small, but can be potentially dangerous if misused.
“It is a tiny explosive, but nevertheless an explosive, and it can damage hands, fingers, eyes and ears, depending on how close you are to them. The eardrum can be damaged. It can cause injury both to the person who is using it and the person it is thrown on. The whole problem is the proximity to it...the fact is that it is a bomb,” he said.
Psychologist Camille Quamina said the psychological effect would be the same as with any type of trauma.
“That type of injury can be very traumatic, because it would be unexpected. It would create a shock to the system.” Scratch bombs may make people affected by them “afraid to get involved with activity like that. They may jump when they hear loud noises in the future. “Nobody thinks that something like this is going to happen to them, so when it does happen it comes as a shock to that person.”
Quamina said there may also be some embarrassment involved, too. because it was local culture to give a lot of picong.
HEALTH AFFECTED“You would see the memes and the stories that would also have an impact on their psychological health, especially with social media. They may not want the images out there, but they are there. We all make mistakes and we do not want our mistakes out there over and over again.”
Paediatrician Dr David Bratt has written several articles on fireworks and said in one, “Fireworks are loud, violent and in your face.
No way to ignore them.” He said fireworks disturbed the peace, raised blood pressure and emotions, and caused bad temper.
He also pointed out, “Apart from deaths, they destroy fingers, hands, eyes, ears and faces. They also damage your hearing.
Fireworks at three feet can produce noise levels above 160 dBA (a measure of sound volume), second only to firearms and noise levels above 140 dBA can cause damage to hearing after just one exposure.”