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WARNING! Lead in commonly found in sparklers and fireworks!

There’s a reason these items are clearly labeled “Caution Flammable” and “Not Intended For Children” – no fireworks are safe to have around kiddos and not for the most obvious reasons. YES, they could blow off a hand (leg, finger, arm or other bodypart) with some of the bigger ones – but our concern is for the smaller ones—that we innocently let younger children play with, because we consider them “safe”. We consider them safe because we don’t imagine they will cause injury, but when we’re thinking about this we’re not thinking about the potential brain injury caused by the inhalation of lead fumes when the sparklers and other “child-friendly” smaller pyrotechnics are lit.

Please keep your children away from “personal” fireworks and instead take them to the big public displays where they are less likely to be subject to inhaling the fumes directly.

Thank you!

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8 Responses to Sparklers

  1. Mark Pokras June 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Thanks, Tamara — A valuable reminder. Also, for your readers, every year veterinarians see pets (almost always dogs) that ingest the papers coverings from exploded fireworks and come down with heavy metal poisoning…Pb, Cd, etc. This probably happens a LOT more than is reported and veterinarians don’t always think to test for it. Why do dogs do this? Not really sure, but I suspect that the materials from the fireworks taste salty, but quite a few dogs are just indescriminate eaters anyway.

    Hope that this helps.

    Mark A. Pokras, DVM
    Wildlife Clinic & Center for Conservation Medicine
    Tufts University
    Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
    200 Westboro Rd.
    N. Grafton, MA 01536 U.S.A.
    (508) 839-7918 office

  2. Rob Johnson June 27, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    I am curious if there are studies or modeling available that have determined lead exposures from sparkler fumes quantitatively?

    • Tamara June 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      Hi Rob!

      Thanks for posting. I don’t believe there are. I have heard of one specific case of a child being poisoned and it was determined that it was from sparkler fumes from sparklers used in an aboriginal Australian celebration/ceremony. The child went to the ceremony with her father and came home poisoned and it was determined that the sparkler fumes were the only source of lead. I don’t have a copy of that article, but I will look for it.

      I think it is worth studying of course. I also think that it is a good example of an overlooked source of lead-exposure that has not been studied at all, because there has not been a call to action about this as a specific source. I am sure those in charge of such studies would argue that it is a single incident exposure, not an ongoing exposure and therefore not a potential ongoing risk to any one particular child.

      Given the fact that my children were poisoned by a single incident exposure of inhaling lead-fumes (albeit from the removal of paint from our home with a torch – which would likely be a much more concentrated source of lead in fumes than found in sparklers) this is of particular interest to me… plus it is easy enough to keep kids away from this type of firework and to give them the joy of the celebration by letting them watch the big shows from a safe distance. (win/win)

  3. kreasen October 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    No commercially available sparklers contain lead

    • Tamara November 9, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

      That’s actually not true. I have tested several types of sparklers (this past summer) from different manufacturers and in different colors and almost all of them tested positive for lead. The green ones were especially high, compared to the other colors tested.

  4. Kim June 30, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    What do you think about this article?

    • Tamara July 2, 2015 at 8:18 am #

      Hi Kim!

      The article is from 2008. I tested new fireworks (using a state-of-the-art XRF) – purchased in Oregon and Washington Last summer (2014) and found lead or cadmium in all of them. Granted, my testing was by no means exhaustive and it was just a sampling. But it WAS a sampling of new currently available products. Thank you for sharing the link!

  5. Gina June 28, 2016 at 3:07 pm #

    Hi Tamara,

    I’m a bit freaked out right now to realize that sparklers contain lead. I had them on my birthday cakes growing up in the 60’s since my birthday is july 7th.

    I had Dyslexia, ADD and serious processing issues. Time for a heavy metal detox.

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