When You Wish Upon…an Inhaler?

‘Experience the magic’ might be Disney’s motto, but residents who live downwind of the company’s Hong Kong theme park might experience something not so enchanting: respiratory problems from debris in the fireworks displays.  

The issue isn’t new. In 2001 Anaheim, California residents charged that the smoke from Disney’s fireworks exacerbated asthma in children. In response, in 2004 Disney made the switch from traditional fireworks to eco-friendly ones (which use compressed air technology)—decreasing noise by 60 percent and significantly reducing the smoke from the nightly show. But Hong Kong residents might not be so lucky, according a Clarkson University article.

Disney insists that compressed air technology is not suitable for "low level fireworks" at the Hong Disney theme park. Hong Kong's Environmental Committee is looking at the pollution generated by the nightly fireworks and its possible effect on residents of nearby Discovery Bay and Ping Chau Island. However, the study may be a mere formality because Disney has already passed the environmental assessment and has been granted permission to use the conventional fireworks.

In 2002, Hong Kong's Environmental Department tested the effect of fireworks on air quality, and was satisfied with the reports by Disney that showed pollution and environmental effects met government standards. Hopke, a universally renowned expert on airborne pollution, disagrees with that assessment, telling the Hong Kong Economic Times "the nightly fireworks show would expose residents in the down-wind region to high concentrations of suspended particles." He also said, "The nightly fireworks would make the condition worse for those with respiratory problems or heart disease, especially for Asians who are prone to bronchitis."

Should Disney decide that the hullabaloo warrants damage control, we’ve got a suggestion: Just give the audience, er, residents, a character they can empathize with. We recommend retiring Sneezy (of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and bringing in a new, respiratorily challenged protagonist, Wheezy.


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