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The Washington State Department of Ecology is anticipating high air pollution levels from fireworks on July 4. Residue levels were 13 times higher than normal last year in several cities.

The pollutants come from both street fireworks as well as professional fireworks shows and contain chemicals that can be extremely toxic, said Matt Kadlec with the Department of Ecology.

Arsenic, lead and thallium are used in fireworks to create the bright colors that light up the sky. But when they burn, they leave behind tiny particles in the air.

We know that ordinary smoke causes heart attacks, strokes and other problems as well, said Kadlec. We have no reason to believe that firework smoke is less able to do that. And because it contains these and other chemicals, it may be more likely to cause these effects.

The elderly, children and people with asthma or cardiovascular problems are advised to limit their exposure to fireworks smoke this Thursday and Friday. You should stay upwind of any shows.

During the winter, air quality agencies issue burn bans when fine particle levels reach or exceed 30 micrograms per cubic meter of air during a 24-hour period. Last year on the 4th, monitors measured spikes of:

  • 600 micrograms around 7th Street in Marysville
  • Nearly 500 micrograms near 212th Street SW in Lynnwood.
  • Nearly 100 micrograms around Tacoma's Alexander Avenue in the tide flats.
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