Fireworks and Air Quality

FireworksIt’s that time of year again, when we celebrate 4th of July by watching fireworks displays and setting off backyard fireworks. It’s a time of fun, family and happiness, and fireworks have come to symbolize all of those good things we associate with the holiday.

Unfortunately, though, all the chemicals and smoke associated with fireworks contribute to unhealthy air conditions. The fine toxic dust created by fireworks can enter our sensitive nose and lung tissues and cause health problems. The dust, in particular, threatens those people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or asthma. In addition to the dust, firework smoke contains a toxic mixture of chemicals, gasses, heavy metals and sulfur.

Public fireworks displays release significant toxins, but often we’re far enough removed so that they don’t directly effect us. If you’re especially sensitive or downwind from the display, however, even these public fireworks can cause problems. Even more of a problem are the backyard displays that people like to put on for their friends and family. Those rockets and fiery fountains, since they’re so close, can negatively impact the health of people nearby, even those without chemical sensitivities. As a 2010 study by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research showed, the metallic particles in fireworks smoke are dangerous and unhealthy.

With all of those potential health problems, what are 4th of July revelers to do? Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to air-damaging pyrotechnics displays. Here are some to try:

  • Instead of sparklers, pass out glow sticks to the kids. It’s fun to draw designs in the air with them, and they’re completely harmless.
  • Try noisemakers and confetti. Both let you show your patriotic spirit without endangering anyone’s health.
  • In lieu of public fireworks displays, look for the air-friendly laser light shows put on by some communities.

The 4th of July is a time to celebrate our families and country, there’s no better way to do that than with safe alternatives to fireworks. What are some of your favorite fireworks alternatives? We’d love to hear your ideas.

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