Fireworks and Your Thyroid: The Controversy

fireworks and the thyroid
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It's not the Fourth of July without the booms of fireworks. Around the United States, Independence Day celebrations often focus on a variety of pyrotechnics, firecrackers, and traditional fireworks displays.

What many thyroid patients don't know, however, is that fireworks can release toxins into the soil and water, including some that may be dangerous to your thyroid.

One starting point is a look at perchlorate, which is a chemical that is a component of fireworks, and a byproduct of rocket production.

At higher doses, perchlorates are hormone-disruptors, and can get in the way of the thyroid's ability to absorb iodine, which can cause hypothyroidism. Some studies have shown that the thyroid-damaging effects of perchlorate can occur at lower doses.

But do perchlorates dissipate when fireworks explode? Actually, there's evidence that they make their way into the soil and water supply. According to Mother Nature Network's Russell McClendon, "a 2007 study of an Oklahoma lake following fireworks displays overhead found that perchlorate levels spiked more than 1,000 times above the baseline level for 14 hours after a show...the study was still the most concrete evidence yet that fireworks release perchlorates into waterways."

In a study done by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, they found high levels of perchlorate at a number of groundwater-monitoring wells on the Dartmouth campus in an area where fireworks were regularly displayed.

Studies have shown that when perchlorates end up in soil, they can remain for years.

We also know that perchlorate in drinking water is considered a controversial health concern and debates have been raging for years on acceptable levels. Companies and government groups that leave behind perchlorate contamination (and face potentially costly cleanups) contend that perchlorate is not a health risk, while environmental groups and some scientists challenge this contention.

Meanwhile, firework-friendly scientists are exploring new ways to combine chemicals to make fireworks more environmentally friendly and minimize any potential health risks by reducing the amount of perchlorate they contain.

Before you cancel your plans to view the fireworks, keep in mind that the Environmental Protection Agency has said that there is no risk associated with fireworks, and experts say that watching an occasional fireworks display isn't a significant health risk. We're still learning about the effects that chemicals in fireworks have on our environment, and thyroid health.

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