Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Air Time: Enjoy fireworks, but protect your lungs

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Fireworks will light up neighborhoods and the sky in communities throughout Washington this week in celebration of Independence Day.

And where there are fireworks, there’s smoke … and the potential to breathe in harmful fine particles made up of soot, dust and unburned fuel.

Fireworks displays – the large, professional kind and even the smaller neighborhood or family type – can produce high levels of unhealthy smoke. In past years, Ecology’s air monitors have shown high levels of fine particles in the air in some communities because of fireworks.

Breathing fine particles in fireworks smoke 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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