Study warns fireworks can cause long-term lung damage

Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate a big occasion, but they may have consequences that last beyond an enjoyable evening under the sparkling lights. A newly published study warns that colorful fireworks like the kind often used at public celebrations produce toxic metal particles that persist in the air, potentially causing damage to human cells that come into contact with them.

When it comes to fireworks, most people are aware of the need to exercise caution...when it comes to fire safety, that is. It is well known that fireworks can cause both personal injury and property damage, including severe burns and even loss of fingers or limbs. A new study finds that fireworks can also cause long-term damage in ways that are less visible, as well.

The research comes from NYU Grossman School of Medicine where scientists evaluated commercial fireworks for their potential toxicity. Of the 12 types of fireworks that were tested, two were found to contain lead levels that can be harmful to humans. In addition, five fireworks were found to produce particles that 'significantly' boosted the rate of harmful oxidation in the body.

Though people breathe in a certain amount of pollution every year, the researchers note that the amount of toxic metals partygoers are exposed to from fireworks is substantially higher than average pollution levels. This makes the exposure concerning even if does only happen for a limited amount of time once or twice a year, and particularly worrisome for those who are frequently exposed at stadiums or other venues.

The study involved fireworks that are available for purchase in the US, including things like a Color-Changing Wheel and the 'Black Cuckoo.' Human lung cells and mice were exposed to particles produced by detonated fireworks, revealing that cell damage can occur from simple exposure. Of the fireworks tested, the Black Cuckoo was found to be the most harmful. Toxic metals detected from fireworks included copper, lead, strontium, and titanium.