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The other day I noticed the big tent for the seasonal firework sale being set up right down the street from where I live. I'd always enjoyed the beautiful sight on the 4th of July...

Lately, doing more research on how to save our waterways, I read about all the chemicals and their effects on our streams and waterbodies, grounndwater and most importantly on our health.

I always think of the long term effects with chemicals that somehow end up in our food chain. We seem to be on the top of the food chain and everything will somehow end up in our bodies causing cell damage (CANCER).

All fireworks are made up of gun powder, accelerant, heavy metals and numerous contaminants, such as ozone, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide. The negative health effects of fireworks go far beyond the initial inhaled amount of toxic fumes that are known to cause temporary lung inflammation and respiratory problems.

Carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals released by fireworks can later invade the body through contaminated water or soil. That’s because firework displays often take place over oceans, rivers and lakes, and the resulting toxic fallout can directly contaminate water sources. In addition to posing a direct health risk to humans, these pollutants can affect fish and other aquatic life, and eventually move up the food chain.

The dangerous chemicals released during firework displays can wreak havoc on the human body, affecting the endocrine system, immune system, gastrointestinal system and metabolism, as well as the neurotransmitters in the brain. For instance:

  • Perchlorate, a chemical that is often mixed with sulfur and charcoal to create the gunpowder that makes fireworks explode, can inhibit the ability of the thyroid gland to derive iodine from blood (hypothyroidism). This can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, which are essential to the metabolic and mental development processes. It can also lead to goiter and thyroid cancer.

  • Strontium, a heavy metal used to produce the bright red colors in fireworks, has been linked to many serious health consequences, including birth defects, damaged bone marrow, inhibited bone growth, anemia and impaired blood clotting.

  • Some of the other chemicals dispersed by fireworks, such as aluminum, barium, cadium, dioxins, and rubidium, are radioactive and known carcinogens. Exposure to these chemicals has been associated with a host of health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, heart disease, kidney disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders and chronic fatigue.

Researchers still continue to study the impact of fireworks on human health and the environment, many public safety and environmental advocates now discourage the use of traditional pyrotechnics during festivities.

Here are some alternatives that are much safer to our health and that of our streams and waterways:

Try laser light shows, parades and block parties! There is also a new technology that uses environmentally friendly compressed air in place of gunpowder to launch fireworks. By celebrating our freedom in a less toxic way, we can avoid sacrificing some of that freedom – namely, our health – to a contaminated environment!

Please plan well and please consider the long term effects, the health of not only our wildlife but also our own health.

Let's work together to protect the environment, our streams and local waterways- and with that the health of those we care about. We are all in this together as responsible citizens of our communities and of our great nation!

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