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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