Scope of the CRWIA, identifying the children and young people affected by the policy, and summarising the evidence base
We believe the provisions included in the Bill will have a positive impact on children and young people, and that in bringing forward these legislative changes we strengthen our commitment to the Articles of the UNCRC where the best interests of the child, and their protection from harm, are paramount. Where there is the potential for negative impacts, we believe these have been considered and mitigated for, and that the Bill strikes the right balance to ensure all measures are necessary and proportionate.
The available evidence shows that fireworks can have a range of potentially negative impacts on children and young people, particularly in relation to health and wellbeing. All children and young people, therefore, have the potential to benefit from the protective measures in the Bill. However, there may be some groups of children and young people that are more likely to benefit from the changes than others. This includes children with disabilities, children with sensory issues, and autistic children who can be particularly impacted by the noise and disturbance created by fireworks. This also includes children from the most deprived areas of Scotland, as evidence shows that children in these communities are at greatest risk of experiencing adverse health consequences due to fireworks, including sustaining a physical injury. In relation to tackling the misuse of pyrotechnic articles, those with mobility and/or respiratory difficulties could experience serious consequences from the emission of toxic substances in an enclosed space, through the misuse of smoke bombs.
The provisions introduced within the Bill have the potential to indirectly affect children and young people as members of the wider community, as part of households/communities where fireworks may be used, and as attendees of events where pyrotechnic misuse takes place.
Additionally, it impacts on those children and young people who are currently manipulated into carrying pyrotechnic articles and fireworks for others by prohibiting adults from giving them or making them available to children.
The creation of new criminal offences also has the potential to impact any child or young person committing one of the new offences.
The evidence base for these conclusions is as follows:
- Findings from a 2019 international evidence review on fireworks legislation and impact showed that exposure to loud, impulsive noise poses a greater risk to human health than exposure to loud, continuous noise and children and young people under 18 years of age may be at particular risk, as the maximum peak sound level limit is set 5 decibels (dB) lower for this age group.
- Additionally, fireworks can raise background noise levels by several dozen decibels (dB), and these high peak sound levels are more harmful to human hearing than increased background noise. Increased noise levels can cause particular distress to those with noise sensitivity and/or sensory issues.
- An evaluation of firework related harm in Scotland, published in October 2020, also highlighted the negative impact that hearing fireworks, particularly when unexpected, can have on potentially vulnerable members of society, including people with sensory issues and autistic people, especially autistic children.
- The evaluation also highlighted increasing concern about the acute and long-term effects of particulate matter and heavy metal pollution from fireworks. Exposure to particulate matter is correlated with conditions including: cardiovascular; respiratory (asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer); developmental (pulmonary and intelligence) and obstetric (pre-term births and low birth weight).
- Data relating to firework injuries in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) NHS Health Board area covering 2008-2019 shows that young people (aged 0-17 years) were disproportionately affected by injuries, with this age group experiencing 51% of injuries while only accounting for 19% of the population. Studies also found that young people, often defined as those under 18 or aged 5-20 years, sustain most firework-related injuries. In addition, studies from America, Australia and international reviews found that males are most likely to suffer fireworks related injuries with the largest difference between genders amongst young people.
- There are also concerns over the over-representation of patients with fireworks related injuries from areas of deprivation and that these inequalities are not moderating over time. This indicates that children and young people from the most deprived areas of Scotland are more at risk of firework-related harm.
The international evidence review also found that:
- Most fireworks related injuries occur at private displays (e.g. in gardens) or in streets and other public places, not at formally organised displays. Both bystanders and operators are at risk of injury, with young people and males consistently found to be most at risk. Common fireworks related injuries affect hands and heads, with mortars and rockets responsible for the majority of serious eye and hand injuries. However, sparklers, fountains and firecrackers are also frequent causes of injury. Fireworks related injuries often require specialist treatment and surgical intervention, and can sometimes be fatal.
- Fireworks pollute the air with gases and particles, which can contain metals and other elements that are potentially harmful to human health. Local air pollution, the frequency of cultural traditions involving fireworks and meteorological factors can all influence the impacts of fireworks on the environment; and the extent of these impacts in Scotland is unknown.
Further evidence about the impact on communities more broadly can be found in the Policy Memorandum and the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) developed for the Bill, both published on the Scottish Parliament website.
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