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Smoke from fireworks displays contains potentially harmful metals, study finds

Firework smoke may be harmful for health
Firework smoke may be harmful for health 01:37

With dozens of dazzling displays scheduled for the Fourth of July holiday, you may want to be mindful of where you watch them from. New research shows smoke from fireworks may be more harmful to our health than initially thought.

A team at Brigham Young University looked at particulate matter for two years and found higher concentrations of metals like copper and barium left following fireworks displays.

"We have already known that fireworks contribute particulate matter. What we weren't expecting was that fireworks had a huge impact on contributing metals to our air," lead author Greg Carling, a professor of geology, said. "Those metals can get into our bloodstream, get into other organs and other systems in our body, and create other issues."

Scientists are still studying the impact of breathing in those heavy metals, but we know people with pre-existing health issues are particularly impacted. And it's not just while the smoke lingers in the air. 

"What I'm kind of interested in as a geologist is what happens to the particulate matter when it settles out into our soils or into crops or into water bodies. And that's where these metals are very persistent," said Carling.

Despite the fact that displays aren't likely to go away anytime soon, Carling says there's a simple solution in the meantime.

"Just being aware of where you're at and trying to avoid smoke as much as possible is only going to help you," he said.

Carling also recommends against lighting your own fireworks, since you're more likely to breathe in those metals being so close to the smoke.

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