Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The health effects of using firecrackers

Daniel Drake Galan - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Now that Christmas Day has passed, the sound of firecracker explosions is echoing even more. People use fireworks and firecrackers for the thrill of it and as a tradition in greeting the New Year. But the practice does not come without a price.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), studies have shown that the levels of suspended particulate matters (SPM) in the air increase to unprecedented heights during fireworks displays. Pregnant women, children and those having chronic asthma are most vulnerable to such exposures.

The high SPM levels can cause throat, nose, eye-related problems, the DOH warns. It can also lead to headaches and reduced mental acuity. The adverse effects are much severe among people with heart, respiratory or nervous system disorders. The condition of people suffering from cold allergies or coughs can be aggravated, and congestion of throat and chest may occur.

The noise of the explosions has harmful effects as well. The standard noise level described as okay by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the ambient environment is 60 dB during daytime and 50 decibels during night time. Most fireworks are as loud as 140 decibels or higher. Noise exceeding 85 decibels can damage hearing. Exposure to excessive sound levels can lead to restlessness, temporary or permanent hearing loss, high blood pressure, and sleep disturbance.

Fireworks can also cause respiratory problems such as: chronic or allergic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis, pneumonia and laryngitis.

Among the harmful effects of chemicals and substances contained in firecrackers and fireworks are:

• Cadmium, which may produce irritation of the lungs and influenza-like symptoms. If cadmium is inhaled, ingested or enters the body, it can accumulate and eventually damage the liver and kidneys. Accumulation of cadmium in the bones may cause a disease called "Itai-Itai" that can make bones brittle and lead to fractures. It is also a potential human carcinogen.

• Lead, which may affect the hematological profile of a person, including the central nervous system, and inhibit brain function. Exposure may also lead to developmental delays, growth retardation, behavioral effects and learning delays.

• Chromium, which may cause skin damage and hypersensitivity, nasal mucosa ulceration and nasal septum perforation. Long term exposures may lead to lung cancer.

• Aluminum, which has been noted to cause impaired memory, dementia and convulsions.

• Magnesium dust and fumes which when inhaled may irritate mucous membranes or upper respiratory tract and cause mental fume fever and deterioration of the central nervous system.

• Nitrates, Nitrite, Phosphates and Sulfates, which may cause dizziness, abdominal cramps, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weakness and convulsion. Small repeated doses may lead to weakness, general depression, headache and mental impairment. Phosphates may produce an acute effect on the liver and can cause severe eye damage and may eventually affect the central nervous system. Sulfates are skin and mucous membrane irritant and corrosive; it may cause edema of the lungs and can produce respiratory paralysis.

• Carbon Monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, which may cause euphoria, headache, eye irritation, narcosis, coma, and may be rapidly fatal after formulation leads to anoxia of brain, nervous system and heart.

• Copper dust fumes which, when inhaled, may cause irritation in the respiratory tract.

• Manganese dioxide fumes, which can cause lung irritation, pneumonia, with possible Parkinsonian symptoms, rigidity, muscular pains and tremor.

• Potassium irritation may lead to chemical pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. It may cause severe irritation of upper respiratory tract with cough, burns and breathing difficulty.

• Sodium, which may cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and respiratory tract.

• Zinc oxide fumes on lungs may cause mental fume fever symptoms like influenza, chills, fever, sweating and muscular weakness.

• Oxides of nitrogen and sulfur may reduce pulmonary function and mucosal irritation. Powerful irritants may cause respiratory damage.

And the health hazards from the chemicals let off by fireworks and firecrackers are only part of the overall risks that the explosions pose. Accidents from fireworks and firecracker explosions can even cost the life and limbs of the victims. The DOH has been consistently reminding people that -

1. The use of fireworks and firecrackers is dangerous.

2. All fireworks and firecrackers are not for children.

3. It is better to keep away from people using fireworks and firecrackers.

4. One shall never pick up unexploded firecrackers.

5. In case of firecracker accident, immediate medical attention must be sought.

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