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Fireworks and BBQ smoke give rise to health concerns during the Fourth of July holiday

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jul 02, 2024

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Fourth of July fireworks and BBQs have always been an annual tradition, but it all comes at a cost to the vulnerable like the young, elderly and people suffering from asthma.

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Fifty-year-old Jeremy Tacon has come to see an allergy and asthma specialist, Dr. Kathleen Dass. Tacon moved to Michigan from New Zealand eight years ago. And since then, his asthma has only gotten worse.

"There were times when I was like, I don't know what's wrong with me?! Do I need to go to the ER because I couldn't breathe? So that's why I have to be really careful when I'm grilling outside," said Tacon.

But this week will be tough for Tacon and other folks suffering from asthma.

"Anything that smokes plays a trigger for asthma," said Tacon.

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That's why smoke from the Fourth of July fireworks and BBQ parties are a concern.

"The average fireworks that we put in our driveway is going to be 50 feet of radius of smoke," said Dass.

"How much of a concern is it?" asked 7 News Detroit reporter Faraz Javed.

"There was an article written by IQ Care that measures air quality and they said that particulate matter increases from 42% to 350% in most places," said Dass.

"Those are little, small microns we call particulate matter, which can be a slither of hair which you cannot see, and because those particles are so small, they enter our bloodstream when we inhale," said Darren Riley, founder and CEO of JustAir.

JustAir is a Detroit-based organization that monitors Michigan's air quality.

"When you have a great deal of fireworks in the air, it releases particulates and heavy metals," said Riley.

"People can always say it's only a day — how bad can it get?" asked Javed.

"Myself being asthmatic, one day can be a poor air quality day that day can trigger an asthma attack, and they may not have medication and end up in the hospital. The thing we can do is be more thoughtful how many do we fire off, or gather in a large group setting like the Detroit fireworks," said Riley.

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Noise pollution is another aspect of fireworks that law enforcement will be cracking down on. In Sterling Heights, the police will enforce a strict noise ordinance after 11 p.m.

"We will be actively patrolling in the subdivisions, and we are going to make sure when we come across if somebody is doing it illegally, we will issue citation and if need be, we will take people to jail," said Capt. Mario Bastianelli with the Sterling Heights Police Department.

Last Fourth of July, the Sterling Heights Police Department made 157 illegal fireworks-related runs alone, which Bastianelli says is a waste of resources. But keeping safety in mind, 15 additional officers will be deployed during this holiday.

"There are so many byproducts and issues that happen, fireworks going off scaring animals, people that are sleeping that may have to work. There are a lot of options that you can do outside of having your own individual party or shooting fireworks illegally," said Bastianelli.

Now, if you cannot get away from all the Fourth of July fireworks or BBQ smoke, Dass says an N95 mask will help over a surgical mask.

Also, click here to learn more about fireworks-related safety.