A new study indicates that fireworks, so common in the United States as the July 4th Independence Day holiday approaches, may be harmful to humans and animals.
The study, conducted by researchers at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine and published Thursday in the Particle and Fibre Toxicology Journal, indicates that common fireworks displays and other commercially available fireworks that explode in the air release heavy metals such as titanium, copper, strontium and even lead particulates into the air.
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The study showed the metals, when breathed into the lungs, can be harmful to humans and other mammals and could cause long-term health problems.
The NYU researchers say that previous studies on firework safety focused on physical injuries that might be suffered as they explode. But the study’s co-author, environmental medicine expert Terry Gordon said they wanted to know whether the toxins released by them posed a significant risk.
Gordon tells the science publication Inverse that their team gathered 12 brands of fireworks commonly sold in the United States and set them off in a sealed chamber and collected the emitted particles. They then exposed human cells and living mice to the particles to test them for toxicity.
They also studied 14 years of air quality samples taken across the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency. They found levels of toxic metals in the air were higher in samples taken closer to holidays associated with fireworks – Independence Day and, often, New Years.
The researchers say they hope the study can be used to find safer materials to use in fireworks. But they also recommend that all home fireworks be set off outside, that people stay upwind from fireworks displays when possible, look for fireworks that do not use a lead and save them for special events. (VOA)