Originally Posted: July 4, 2019
While the Fireworks industry has improved in recent years – the fireworks you can buy for the holidays (Fourth of July, Memorial Day, New Years and others) depending on where you live – can still have unsafe levels of Lead and other toxicants (including Cadmium and other carcinogens.) In fact – it is metals (including heavy metals) that are the base components for making many of the bright colors you see in most fireworks. This is also true for the aerial fireworks used in the big displays. There’s also hidden Lead in a lot of other holiday activities… so here’s my #TopTenList (well… “Top 8”, at least!) for avoiding Lead (and other toxicants) on the Fourth of July!
Holiday Tip #1: Avoid Sparklers (especially for young children).
Don’t let your children play with sparklers. Outside of the concern for a burn risk (especially in very young children), the smoke from sparklers can be full of Lead and other toxicants. In spite of regulations aimed at restricting Lead in sparklers, I have personally tested newly-manufactured sparklers in recent years (using XRF technology) that still had significant levels of Lead! [So…PLEASE NEVER put sparklers on a birthday cake instead of candles – or near anything edible – … oh my, just think about that one!]
Holiday Tip #2: Avoid Ground Fireworks Designed to Be Attractive to Children!
Avoid all fireworks that are designed for children to be engaged with at close range. They may say “not intended for use by children” on the packaging, but we all know they are designed to be engaging to children (to lure kids into asking their parents to buy them for the kids to use!)
Not only can they cause millions of dollars in damage to our natural resources (like the enormous wildfire in Oregon last year that was caused by a young teenage boy throwing a smoke bomb into the forest) but they also create close-proximity toxic smoke that can be inhaled by anyone nearby.
Examples of these types of fireworks include:
- Little chickens that lay firework eggs
- Smoke bombs
- Ground Blooms
- Little tanks or race cars that are propelled along the ground by the firework in them.
- Ground based colorful plumes
Holiday Tip #3: Main Fireworks Rule…”Keep your Distance.”
In all cases (including small personal fireworks and big aerial displays), keep your distance! If you and your children can smell the fireworks, you are potentially breathing in any toxic chemicals contained in the fireworks.
When our family goes to see the fireworks in Portland, Oregon, we like to watch from the far side of the Burnside bridge – where we still have a close enough look at the spectacle and wonder of the colors and design, but are a sufficient distance along the river away from the barges that we cannot smell the fumes at all.
Update: After initially posting this two separate mothers of toddlers contacted me to ask if I felt their children may have been poisoned as a result of inhaling smoke from sparklers. Here is my response to that concern:
“I don’t know to what degree this type of exposure (from a single incident) can be measured. I believe that it (the human impact of Lead in smoke) hasn’t been well studied (beyond air exposure implications in very polluted urban areas historically.) I think if my kids had an exposure like this (because they were in close proximity to fireworks for a single evening) to err on the side of caution I would make them a green smoothie with garlic in the morning, and roast some garlic and spread it on toast with butter and salt (a mostly garlic topping for garlic bread) in the morning. Garlic and mushrooms sautéed for lunch… and however else I could fit it in.” [Garlic has been demonstrated to detox Lead in biological studies – link.]
Holiday Tip #4: Grill Lead-free!
Consider using a stainless steel grill and utensils – and not an enamel-coated one.
I have tested probably 50+ enamel-coated grills (and non-stick-coated grills) and have consistently found Lead in the coating that is the food-surface of the grill (the part that the meat sits on and that you invariably scrub with a wire brush and scrape with metal cooking tools.)
Sticking with a stainless or uncoated cast iron grilling surface will limit the potential for any Lead to migrate in to your holiday BBQ’d burgers, dogs and chicken.
Holiday Tip #5: Avoid Festive Decorative Holiday Ceramic Serving dishes!
Avoid holiday-themed ceramicware for serving dishes (trays, pitchers, etc.) Many of these holiday-themed items (for all holidays, not just the 4th of July) are actually not made or sold for food use purposes (the manufacturers use the loophole of claiming that they are purely “decorative” pieces)
As a result these pieces often contain high levels of Lead (and also sometimes Cadmium) in the glazes. Given the mass-manufactured nature of many of these holiday-themed decorative products, they are less likely to be leach-tested in the way higher-quality, “year-round” modern ceramic dishes (sold and intended specifically for food use) might be.
Holiday Tip #6: Ditch the Vintage Plastic!
Ditch the vintage plastic! Definitely do NOT bring out your festive vintage Tupperware for the holiday! I have found vintage Tupperware to contain high levels of Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic and it is not safe at all by modern standards. [Link here with more information on toxicants found in vintage Tupperware.]
If you must use plastic, and Tupperware specifically, use post-2010 products – as their newer products test negative for the heavy metals listed above — and they also phased BPA out of their products fully in 2010.
Holiday Tip #7: Fish & Hunt Lead-free!
Fishing or hunting this holiday week? Many consider hunters to be the “first environmentalists.” Teaching children to live off the land and celebrating the greatness of our country by honoring our natural resources in this way can be a great experience, and these may be valuable skills and create a lifetime of memories — but please use Lead-free bullets and Lead-free fishing weights and gear. These safe alternatives generally cost only pennies per use more than the Leaded ones, and they protect the wildlife and the natural landscape for future generations (as well as help to make sure the food you are eating is not contaminated with Lead from the use of Leaded shot and Leaded fishing gear. For fishing weights, I personally like the stainless steel options, although there are also zinc and other choices. [The last time I shot a gun was about 34 years ago – when I was in the Explorer Scouts, so I don’t have a personal recommendation there!]
Holiday Tip #8: Make Sure Your Boating Excursion is Lead-free!
Is boating on the agenda for the holiday: Fuel up your craft with Lead-free gasoline! [Yes, despite the fact that Lead was finally phased out in the U.S. for use in gas for on-road automobiles in 1996, you can still buy Leaded gasoline for Marine vehicles [and farm vehicles, go-carts, airplanes, etc. — don’t get me started!] and that horribly pollutes both the air and the water where you are vacationing.]
So Tamara, what do you do with your boys for the holiday?
Well, I always look for these factors in a holiday experience for my kids:
- Free [Low-to-no financial impact!]
- Non-toxic [Low-to-no environmental impact on my family and the planet!]
- Low-key (from a sensory perspective)… and
- Safe [ideally, no risk of losing limbs is a good benchmark to start with]
For our holiday this year I have decided to take my younger two boys away from the noise and the toxicants and instead stargaze in the dark sky preserve of Joshua Tree National Park — where you can actually see the Milky Way!! [Avi is an aspiring astronomer and astrophysicist and we are excited about seeing the Milky Way in all its glory tonight!]
The National Parks are FREE for Fourth Graders and citizens with disabilities.
The National Parks are free for us this year (and now every year!) for two reasons:
- Charlie is technically still in 4th grade, so has his “Every Kid In A Park” free family pass, good until August 31st! This is available for all U.S. citizen fourth graders and gets their whole family in free too! Check out the link: https://everykidinapark.gov
- This year (earlier today) we got my 14-year-old son Avi’s permanent disability lifetime free National Parks pass. This makes it possible for Avi and his guests to go to any National Park for free for the rest of his life because he has a permanent disability (his permanent diagnosis is officially “Brain Injury Due to Lead Poisoning”.)
Here’s what Charlie’s card looks like, check out the fine print! (So cool!)
Continue reading below the images.Click the image below to see it full-size and read the fine print.
Our planet’s natural fireworks (the stargazing we will be doing tonight at Joshua Tree) have the potential to inspire a level of wonder far beyond those made by man. There’s a much lower pollution impact as well [but I must concede, we drove here, so there is the impact of the automobile / combustion engine, and related environmental impacts!]
Low-Key & Safe
It’s going to just be the three of us (no loud noises, funny smells or other potential for sensory overload!) My boys are a little worried about the rattlesnakes and tarantulas in Joshua Tree, and I am a little worried about their keen interest in (sometimes pretty “ambitious”) rock-hopping and rock climbing… but I don’t expect we will lose any limbs tonight (plus there are lots of park rangers around in case we get into trouble!)
Side note: Broken limbs are collateral damage of being a parent of high-energy Lead-poisoned boys (due to the fact that Lead can compromise their bone structure as it is absorbed by the bones in the place of calcium), but I don’t anticipate that happening tonight either.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts. As always, please let me know if you have any questions at all.
I hope you have a Lead-safe holiday weekend!
Picture below: my boys meditating on top of a boulder in Joshua Tree earlier today (7/4/2019):
Thank you, as always, for great safety tips! For our summer holidays we have strongly considered renting a canoe and getting out in the water, but a lot of the canoes I see for rent have Vinyl gunwales lining the entire top perimeter of the canoe or Aluminum. I can’t tell what’s the best choice, especially if we try to buy a used canoe…I would guess aluminum? My kids are young and stick their hands are very hand-to-mouthy, even caught mouthing this edge of the boat. Anyone reading this got any clues?
Items like boats are not regulated for the presence of toxicants. Aluminum boats can have lead contamination in the aluminum and Lead in the paint. It is good to be aware and vigilant about mouthing behavior on boats – and encourage lots of hand washing. Perhaps put duct tape over the areas that your children might touch frequently? I don’t really have a solution there. Hard plastic formed newer boats are normally Lead-free.
Hello love your post but now I want to test my well water! We love rural and have always went all out with fireworks!
What is a grill you would recommend hard to find one that’s family safe!
Thank you for what you do! ❤️
Your a blessing!
Have you tested “pop it’s” for Lead/heavy metals (pictured above). They don’t produce any color- just make a noise but my toddlers enjoy them and have played with them in years prior. Please advise. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do!
Yes – they are on the blog.. you can put “pop it” in the search bar to find the post.
Where is leaded gasoline available that you are aware of?
All over the place – Oregon, New York, Mass, NJ. Places where people might have race cars they want to fuel up. They have it at pumps and they have it in cans. They also have additives that you can add to “regular unleaded” to turn it into Leaded. It’s awful.