Washington State Department of Ecology - June 27, 2013

13-164

Smoke from fireworks poses possible health risks

OLYMPIA – On Independence Day, Washington residents will shoot off fireworks for entertainment and to express patriotic feelings in communities throughout the state.

Keep in mind that fireworks displays – the large, professional shows and even smaller neighborhood or family events – can produce large amounts of unhealthy smoke. That puts us all at risk from breathing in tiny, harmful fine particles made up of soot, dust, metals, and unburned fuel.

"Fine particles in fireworks smoke contain an abundance of certain metals and chemicals. The resulting smoke mixture may be more toxic than ordinary smoke, such as that produced by burning materials like wood," said Gary Palcisko, an Air Quality Program toxicologist for the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Breathing fine particles in fireworks smoke can cause or contribute to serious short- or long-term health problems. They include:

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 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:

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 their windows to avoid breathing the smoke.

Those most at risk for health effects are children, people with lung or heart disease, and people age 60 and older.

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.

###

For more information:

Air Quality Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/airhome.html)

Learn more about fine particles (www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9A71m7-ReQ)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)


Media contacts:

Seth Preston, Ecology media relations, 360-407-6848 office; 360-584-5744 mobile; seth.preston@ecy.wa.gov

Joye Redfield-Wilder, Ecology media relations, 509-575-2610, 509-961-6277 mobile, joye.redfield-wilder@ecy.wa.gov

Brook Beeler, Ecology media relations, 509-329-3478, 509-290-0855, mobile, brook.beeler@ecy.wa.gov