Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Air Time: Protect yourself while enjoying fireworks displays

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Like a lot of people, I love to watch fireworks displays. I’m looking forward to seeing several shows this 4th of July weekend, both in person and via TV broadcasts.

And, over the next several days, you can bet that folks in neighborhoods throughout the state will shoot off plenty of fireworks during their own celebrations.

While you’re celebrating, keep this in mind: Fireworks displays — the large, professional kind and the smaller neighborhood or family type — can generate high levels of unhealthy smoke.

In prior years, Ecology’s air monitors have shown high levels of fine particles in the air because of fireworks. These fine particles are made up of soot, dust and unburned fuel. Breathing them can cause or contribute to serious health problems, including:

  • Risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Lung inflammation
  • Reduced lung function
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Asthma attacks
  • Cancer
Ecology recommends that people with breathing problems or heart or lung disease avoid areas of heavy smoke by viewing fireworks displays from a safe distance. People who are especially sensitive should stay indoors (especially during the evening) and close the windows to avoid breathing the smoke.

Those most at risk for health effects are children, the elderly and people with lung or heart disease.

Even people who are healthy may have temporary symptoms such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of breath.

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