We need to stop assaulting family, friends with fireworks


POSTED: Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Few if any of us would fire up a charcoal barbeque in our living room. The obvious threat to our family's safety from fire, burns and lung damage - as well as potential asphyxiation - makes doing so unthinkable.

Yet thousands of us don't hesitate to set off fireworks in our shared recreation room - the great outdoors - despite the same hazards to our family and neighbors.

The hazards are real, especially to the 154,000 island residents who suffer from some form of lung disease - asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), lung cancer and others.

There might be many reasons to oppose the continued use of fireworks in our communities, but the damage they do to our collective health is reason enough to support the proposed ban now being considered by the Legislature.

  This isn't speculation. Each year, the American Lung Association assesses air quality in cities across the country, and each year Honolulu ranks among the best except in one category - short-term pollution caused by particulate matter.

Fireworks exploding on New Year's Eve is the principal reason Honolulu has received a “;D”; in this category the past few years. But this issue is not about grades. It's about public health.

Short-term exposure to particle pollution can kill - maybe not the next day, but maybe in months or years. Particulate pollution is the worst type because particles become embedded deep in the lung, decreasing lung efficiency and capacity.

Over time, lives are lost due to particle pollution - the same kind that we as a community have inflicted upon us by otherwise law-abiding friends, relatives and neighbors.

  It's time we stand up to this assault on our lungs and say, “;Enough!”; Exploding aerial fireworks and strings of firecrackers might be fun and even culturally important for some, but lives are being cut short by this exercise of free will.

It's time to act responsibly and stop this willful disregard for the health of our fellow citizens, especially those who might be unable to speak for themselves - our children and the elderly.


Jean Evans is executive director of the American Lung Association of Hawaii.