Too many fireworks; war veterans seek peace

While some Oregonians head for noisy displays, stressed and traumatized ex-combat troops look for a quiet spot

The "Minefield" explodes with glittering red tips. "War and Peace" unloads alternating rounds of color and fire. "The Torrent" promises "360 degrees of pyro " in a spectacular barrage.

As Americans stock up on Fourth of July fireworks with battlefield themes, those with actual war experience are adopting safety plans instead. Combat veterans in Oregon and southwest Washington say they are heading to quiet campsites, small family gatherings or the basement with earphones. They'll pre-stage their dreams before bed, visualizing different endings.

Depression, anxiety and drinking all spike around the Fourth of July, counselors say. "This time of year is stressful -- period," says Jim Sardo, a two-tour military psychologist who manages the PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) Clinical Team and Substance Abuse Services at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Unexpected bursts of noise, summer heat, crowds, traffic, forced gaiety and coolers of cold beer all contribute.

But the Fourth of July also stands as a collective reminder of both the patriotism and pain in military service. Many veterans are bothered less by the booms, Sardo says, than the deeper questions the displays raise about what it means to go to war and lose a limb, friends or a view of the world as a healthy place.

"I hear patriotic music or the Pledge of Allegiance, I start crying," says Ken Kraft, a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq. "It's a respect and reverence for the rights we have and the really good people trying to defend this country. But I'm not pro-war, and anyone who is, has never been to war.

"War changes who you are and how you are and how you react to things. My wife still grieves for the person who went there.

"Because somebody else came home."

Olympic Proposal to Eliminate Fireworks

The International Olympic Committee announced recently the proposal of eliminating firework displays from the Olympics beginning with the London Summer Olympic Games in 2012. The reasoning behind the proposal is the harmful effects that the emissions from fireworks cause to the environment. Jacques Rogge, IOC President, stated that they "we're going to study it seriously" to determine what actions to take with the proposal.
Another option put forward as an "clean" alternative to firework displays at the Olympic's is the use of lasers and lights.

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Explosion in Vietnam -- the Danger of Fireworks

Many of us are aware of the long term health effects of fireworks. But they are also dangerous, explosive devices. A few weeks ago, four people were killed in Vietnam were killed by one such explosion, while three other people were injured. The fireworks were intended for the upcoming 1000th birthday of Hanoi (the capitol of Vietnam). The explosion took place at one of the 29 places that were staged to set off the fireworks for this celebration, My Dinh National Stadium. People were not the only ones injured in this accident. Windows were smashed and the walls of buildings shook. There is not a great deal of information available about this incident since Vietnam, as a communist country, closely monitors it’s public media. The fireworks were supposed to be part of the grand finale of the celebration. The celebration cost the government millions of dollars.

This should serve as a reminder that, while fireworks can be fun and beautiful to look at, they are dangerous explosives. It is important to practice safety when handling fireworks, whether you are a professional or not. Among those who were injured in this instance, at least two were firework technicians.

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Fireworks as a Political Device

Fireworks are such an amazing spectacle that they can make us act in any number of strange ways. We may drink too much, eat too much BBQ, hide under our picnic blanket in terror, or simply burn our hand while setting one on fire. But what about fireworks and crowds? Fireworks can be frightening or inspire awe in a group. This seems like a natural combination for political propaganda. Kim Jong Eun was praised by his father for his use of fireworks in a political display in Korea ( But fireworks are not only used in that country as a political device. Think of the American celebration of the 4th of July. The bright lights and festivities surrounding this spectacle, bring many people together to fortify their patriotism and bond with their fellow countrymen. Fireworks represent the battle explosions during America’s fight for independence but today, the spectacle inspires more excitement and pride than fear.

Fireworks are a bold statement and powerful explosions are definitely an attraction when looking for a way to demonstrate the power of a particular body of government. Fireworks are also an expensive display, demonstrating financial security. Smaller fireworks are available to people to set off in their neighborhoods or backyards and allow for a personalized expression of the same show on a smaller scale. Our desire as people to make loud noises and watch colorful displays is easily manipulated into a unifying experience. This point is further emphasized by the fact that the military is one of the larger consumers of fireworks.

Eco - Friendly Fireworks

With how exciting fireworks are to watch, we sometimes don’t think about the harm that they can cause. A number of posts on this blog have discussed the threats that fireworks pose to our health, but what about to our environment? In most parts of this country, fireworks are reserved for special occasions such as the 4th of July and New Years. You would think that the damage would be somewhat minimal, occurring once a year. But there are also places like Disneyland and other theme parks who thrive off of nightly firework shows. Some scientists are now working on fireworks that release less smoke and toxic metals which can pollute our water and soil when they filter down to the earth. As can be expected, the eco-friendly fireworks are more expensive than regular ones. This makes it less likely that they will be used in small scale and local firework shows, but places like Disneyland and the U.S. Military are starting to look into these higher priced options.
In past years, fireworks (which are mainly shipped from China) were monitored and regulated mainly to ensure that they did not explode while being transported. In recent years, the government has turned to looking at the environmental and health impacts of these explosives. Though this is becoming more of a central issue, places that set off a great number of fireworks are not going to necessarily turn towards eco-friendly fireworks unless regulations are tightened. A chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory has been quoted as an activist for cleaner burning fireworks though he has stated that he doesn’t know to what exent this can cause adverse health effects. It’s unfortunate that instead of doing the right thing, these places need to be forced into using more eco-friendly fireworks.

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Fireworks and PTSD

Many of us are unaware of the harmful effects fireworks can have on our veterans. Fireworks bring back memories of combat and can trigger flashbacks for soldiers. Although the banning of fireworks will probably never happen, there are other ways we can show our compassion for those that have defended our nation.

An excerpt from the article, New Year's Eve Fireworks and Veterans with PTSD, offers some suggestions:
PTSD is a debilitating condition that some individuals develop after experiencing a traumatic event. Given the nature of war, it is not surprising that combat veterans are among those routinely diagnosed with the disorder. According to the Veterans Administration's PTSD Information Center, symptoms of PTSD include depression, anxiety, rage, suicidal tendencies, social isolation, sleeplessness, emotional numbness, and alcohol and drug abuse. The National Institute of Mental Health states that PTSD sufferers have flashbacks to the traumatic event, which can be brought on by environmental factors. Thus, even when PTSD is diagnosed and treated, the sound of fireworks can trigger flashbacks to the experience of gunfire or the detonation of an improvised explosive device (IED). In turn, the memories can bring on the PTSD symptoms.

What You Can Do
Substitute. Take your family to enjoy public fireworks displays instead of setting off cherry bombs and other incendiaries at your home.

Inquire. If you know a veteran living in your neighborhood, inquire in advance of the holiday whether particular types of fireworks will cause him or her undue stress.

Inform. Inform all your neighbors that you will be setting off particular types of fireworks at a specific time.

Curtail. Voluntarily restrict your use of fireworks to one hour beginning at midnight; do not set off fireworks at unexpected times throughout the day.

Limit. Don't go overboard in the quantity of fireworks purchased and used. Choose a selection of fireworks that you think your family will enjoy and set those off within a relatively short period.

Distance: Choose a location, such as a fenced-in back yard, for setting off the fireworks that is least likely to disturb vets and other neighbors who may be bothered by the noise.

Priorities. Given the debt our society owes to military members who serve in dangerous war zones on our behalf, consider whether the fleeting pleasure of a few blasts of explosives is worth the potential hardship to nearby veterans with PTSD.

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Post: Jessica Hadduck

Post by Sophia Simmons

Many people have happy childhood memories of playing with sparklers and watching little pandas climb bamboo with the add of a flame. However, not all children are so lucky as to have these happy memories.
Following the cases seen in a large ER shows the large variety of injuries that can be inflicted by fireworks onto children. Often the children were just bystanders watching adults light the fireworks that ultimately burned the children. Some of the children were so badly burned they required a hospital stay;some requiring surgery and leaving with permanent burn marks. And one poor child died as a result of their encounter with the fireworks.
Common injuries were the eyes, the hands, and the lower extremities.

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Harmful Effects of Fireworks

Fireworks are notorious for causing injuries of different severity and occasionally resulting in fatalities. While lack of knowledge and misuse can often be blamed for physical injuries, even proper use of fireworks can have negative impacts on the environment. Although officials aren't as worried about the immediate toll on the environment, how will large amounts of repeated exposure effect pollution and air quality in the long run?

Toxins In Fireworks End Up In Our Air
When fireworks are lit off, the mix of propellants, oxidizers, and coloring agents creates each brilliant burst. But as Pete Springer reports, that same mix is not only visually fun to look at, but can be harmful as well.
Elson Strahn is the president of the Vancouver Trust, the organization that puts on the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi. The show takes six months to coordinate to music and the actual fireworks display is run completely by computers. Elson Strahn: “Much more sophisticated than the old days when you’d have a group of folks standing around lighting fuses. It’s a very highly technical pyrotechnic exercise.” The half-hour fireworks show literally burns through tons of explosives and chemicals.
One of those chemicals is perchlorate. It’s an oxidizer used in fireworks, rocket fuel, and even airbags. Perchlorate has also been identified as a health hazard -- it can inhibit the thyroid's ability to take up iodine and can reduce the production of thyroid hormone. The U.S. Air Force is cleaning up scores of perchlorate contaminated bases, and now there is some concern this perchlorate may be getting into soil and water near firework displays.
For example, a Massachusetts study did find perchlorate in drinking water wells near firework displays. The fireworks link to water pollution has not been tested or studied locally. But Disneyland in Anaheim, California now uses air-propelled rockets for the theme park's nightly fireworks display. In terms of health effects on humans, the smoke from fireworks may be the most obvious concern. But officials aren’t too worried about the long-term effects on human health.

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Fireworks, Pet's and Vet's

What usually happens on July 4? Most people celebrate America’s independence. In 1776, America became independent from the United Kingdom. Most people celebrate by meeting with family and friends for partying and barbequing. What goes on after dark? Fireworks and loud noises. What is wrong with that? Nothing if you are not a pet or a vet.
It is fun to watch the beautiful sky light up every year but our furry friends do not enjoy it. Every year many of our pets are traumatized. The veterinarians become prepared each year because this is a time for many pets to be brought in by their owners. Pets are frightened and try to escape from the loud noises. This means that they chew on doors, or force doors open, and even break windows to try and escape the noises. As a result, many are lost, hit by cars, get lacerations, and some end up dying. This is why it is important even if you are not a pet owner to be considerate and not contribute to the noise from the fireworks. If you are a pet owner look for warning signs for noise phobias. These signs may be barking or howling, refusing to eat or drink, excessive drooling, loss of bowel or bladder control, hiding or trying to get forcefully out of the house, and trembling or shaking. This is not fair to these animals because they have no control over this. If you recognize these warning signs, please follow these steps.
- Keep pets at home.
- Make sure they are in a small, safe, familiar place.
- Turn on the television or radio, and close all curtains.
- If you do take your pet with you outside please keep them on a reliable leash or place them in a carrier.
- Keep an updated pet ID on their collar.
- Before fireworks start make sure they use the bathroom. Take them for a walk.
- Keep pets away from flammable material.
- Do not leave your pets in the car if you cannot resist taking them with you to firework displays.
- Don’t add to the noise by setting off your own fireworks when your pets are around.
Please for the sake of the animals, please follow these guidelines to the best of your ability.
Have you ever heard of P.T.S.D? This means Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This mental health diagnosis is an anxiety disorder that people experience after being exposed to a traumatizing situation like physical or sexual assault in any form, a vehicle accident, or a combat experience. It is estimated that 30% of the people population have this debilitating disorder and have been in a war zone experience. Can you imagine how this population is affected by fireworks? It is probably something that you have never thought of like many people. Well, the veterans of war with P.T.S.D are greatly affected by fireworks. The side effects of this diagnosis may include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, isolation, alcohol and/or drug use, emotional numbness, difficult remembering things, suicidal thoughts or self-mutilation, and anger outbursts or rages. When this population is exposed to combat during a war they are exposed to bright flashing lights and loud noises. This is similar to the noise and sound of fireworks. This causes the vets to experience flashbacks to the traumatic event of war. Please be considerate to the vets that help fight for our country and risk their lives by following these courtesy guidelines:
- Don’t add to the fireworks. Go to a public firework display instead.
- If you know any vets in the neighborhood, discuss if fireworks bother them and which kind.
- Tell your neighbors that you will be setting off fireworks at a certain time.
- Set off fireworks at one designated time instead of various times throughout the day.
- Minimize the amount of fireworks that you set off.
There are many reasons not to participate in fireworks each year. Please be courteous to all pets and vets by being proactive in the progression of their treatment.

Firework Safety Tips

Firework safety is no joke. Understanding the proper handling and use of fireworks is a must! Here are some general firework safety tips provided courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission.

• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
• Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
• Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
• Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don't realize that there are many injuries from sparklers to children under five. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.
• Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back to a safe distance immediately after lighting.
• Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
• Light one item at a time then move back quickly.
• Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
• After fireworks fully complete their functioning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding to prevent a trash fire.

'Safe and sane fireworks don't exist'

The NFPA- National Fire Protection Association- website provides safety videos, articles, statistics and firework laws to the public.

Here is an article I found interesting.
Legal or not, fireworks are too risky for amateurs
Permanent scarring, loss of vision, dismemberment – these are too often the harsh realities of amateur fireworks use. To keep the public safe from fireworks-related injuries and deaths, the nonprofit NFPA urges everyone to treat fireworks, whether legal or illegal for consumers, as suitable only for use by trained professionals. According to NFPA, amateur fireworks use endangers not only the users, but also bystanders and surrounding property and structures. Pyrotechnic devices ranging from sparklers to aerial rockets cause thousands of fires and serious injuries each year.

"Safe and sane fireworks don't exist," says Dr. John Hall, NFPA's Division Manager of Fire Analysis and Research. "When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond."

In recent years, fireworks have been one of the leading causes of injuries serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment. Fireworks can result in severe burns, fractures, or scars or even death or disfigurement that can last a lifetime. The thousands of serious injuries each year typically harm the eyes, head, or hands, and are mostly reported in states where fireworks are legal. Even sparklers, which are considered by many to be harmless, reach temperatures of more than 1,000° F.

"Fireworks are dangerous and unpredictable, especially in the hands of amateurs," says Judy Comoletti, NFPA's Division Manager of Public Education. "The few seconds of pleasure those fireworks may bring are not worth the risk of injury, permanent scarring, or even death."

Wooded areas, homes, and even automobiles have become engulfed in flames because of fireworks. Fireworks-related fires have typically caused at least $20 million in property loss (not adjusted for inflation) each year in recent years. A substantial portion of the structure fire property loss due to fireworks typically involves bottle rockets or other fireworks rockets. These rockets can land on rooftops or wedge within certain structures and still retain enough heat to cause a fire.

"For most people, their family and their home represent the hard work of a lifetime and their hopes for the future," says Dr. Hall. "No one would risk losing what's most important to them if they understood the dangers of fireworks. There are safer alternatives to using fireworks on the Fourth of July."

Public fireworks displays are one of those alternatives. Conducted by trained professionals, these displays are the smartest and safest fireworks alternative for anyone because they are established under controlled settings and regulations. After these displays, or any other time, children should never pick up fireworks that may be left over. Fireworks that have been ignited and fail to immediately explode or discharge can cause injury because they may still be active. Children should always tell an adult if they find fireworks rather than picking up smoking or charred fireworks themselves, which is just too risky.
Posted by: Jennifer Mount

Fireworks explosion in Ocracoke, North Carolina kills a worker

How much damage can fireworks really cause? According to this article, fireworks can be completely fatal. This article talks about how a firework explosion that occurred killed a worker, which would be the third time that some one got killed in the same job position.

A third worker who had been preparing for an Independence Day celebration died from injuries suffered when a truckload of fireworks exploded on a dock at a remote North Carolina island, authorities said.

In eastern Pennsylvania, an employee of a fireworks company staging a July Fourth celebration was killed by a separate explosion and, elsewhere, about 25 people were injured when a pedestrian bridge collapsed at festivities in northwest Indiana, authorities said.

The North Carolina worker died late Saturday at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, said Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell. Two other workers were injured in the blast that shook homes and businesses across the southern end of Ocracoke Island, but their conditions have not been released.

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