The metallic particles in the smoke emitted by fireworks pose a health risk, particularly to people who suffer from asthma. This is the conclusion of a study led by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC), published this week in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.
"The toxicological research has shown that many of the metallic particles in the smoke from fireworks are bio-reactive and can affect human health", Teresa Moreno, a researcher from the IDAEA (CSIC) and lead author of a study that has been published this week in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, tells SINC.
The different colours and effects produced in these displays are achieved by adding metals to the gunpowder. When a pyrotechnic display takes place it releases a lot of smoke, liberating minute metallic particles (of a few microns in size, or even less), which are small enough to be inhaled deeply into the lungs.
"This poses a risk to health, and the effects are probably more acute in people with a background of asthma or cardiovascular problems", Moreno explains. "The effects in healthy people are still unknown, but common sense tells us it cannot be good to inhale the high levels of metallic particles in this smoke, even if this only happens a few times a year".
The study focused on the San Juan fiestas (the night of 23 June through to 24 June, 2008) in the Spanish city of Girona. The researchers analysed the levels of more than 30 chemical elements and compounds in May and June in order to confirm that the levels of lead, copper, strontium, potassium and magnesium skyrocketed after the fireworks were launched.
The team found the results were similar in other towns too. During the Masclet (18 March), for example, in the Las Fallas fiestas in Valencia, levels of these elements rose once again, as well as others such as aluminium, titanium, barium and antimony, and also concentrations
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology