Make sure you protect your lungs if you plan to light off or be near fireworks around the Fourth of July.
Fireworks can be spectacular to see, but they also can generate a lot of potentially harmful smoke. Breathing fine particles in fireworks smoke can cause or contribute to serious short- or long-term health problems. They include:
- Risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Lung inflammation.
- Reduced lung function.
- Asthma-like symptoms.
- Asthma attacks.
Unhealthy spikesIn past years, air monitors showed unhealthy levels of fine particles from fireworks smoke in some Washington communities.
During winter, air quality agencies can issue burn bans when levels of fine particles reach or exceed 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air during a 24-hour period. Bans also can be called if fine particles are forecast to reach or exceed that level.
Air monitors have recorded much higher, temporary spikes in fine particles caused by fireworks smoke in past years on the Fourth of July in some communities. For example, on July 4 last year Puget Sound Clean Air Agency monitors showed:
- A spike of about 600 micrograms around Marysville’s 7th Street.
- A high of nearly 500 micrograms around Lynnwood’s 212th Street SW.
- A reading of nearly 100 micrograms around Tacoma’s Alexander Avenue in the tideflats.
Protect yourselfEcology recommends that people with breathing problems or heart or lung disease avoid areas of heavy smoke by viewing fireworks 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.
Even healthy people may have temporary symptoms such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; and shortness of breath.