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Newport girl dies of apparent asthma attack after fireworks

PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 7:21 pm
by Wilberforce
Newport girl dies of apparent asthma attack after fireworks

Jul 6, 2017 Updated Jul 6, 2017

The Bybee community of Cocke County is mourning following the death of a 9-year-old girl who had an apparent asthma attack following a fireworks celebration.

On Tuesday evening, Lourdes Trevino, 9, was enjoying fireworks with her older brother and sister, Sergio and Patricia, when she began having trouble breathing. Her difficulties likely stemmed from the smoke from the fireworks, family members say.

She returned to her nearby home on Marshall Hollow Road in the Bybee community of Cocke County where she told her grandmother she couldn’t breathe.

Delia Garcia said she gave Lourdes a breathing treatment with her nebulizer, but her difficulties continued.

“My friend called an ambulance and we took off with Lourdes to meet the ambulance. They took her straight to the hospital, but by the time we reached the hospital she wasn’t breathing,” Garcia said.

The girl could not be revived.

Lourdes appeared to be a normal, happy girl, laughing as she rode her bike on the road by her home, and playing in the nearby creek with Sergio.

But Garcia who has raised her grandchildren, said Lourdes experienced asthma issues all of her life.

“She had good days and bad days,” she said. “At one time she developed pneumonia, but she got over it.”

Lourdes was about to enter the fourth grade at Parrottsville Elementary School.

Her school nurse, Teresa Smith, visited the family Wednesday evening and described Lourdes “as sweet as candy.”

“She was an excellent student, smart, well-behaved. And she was a favorite of everyone,” she said.

But Smith says people sometimes do not realize how serious asthma can be, and the need to act quickly when problems develop.

The Tennessee Department of Health says asthma is a serious lung disease. During an asthma attack, the airways become narrow, making it difficult to breathe.

Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain and tightness and coughing, which can cause death.

Asthma can sometimes be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack.

It is important to control the triggers in the environment that can make asthma worse. It may be triggered by allergens and irritants that are common in homes including secondhand smoke, dust mites, pets, molds, air pollution, foods, respiratory infections, pests and exercise.

In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available in Tennessee, there were 58 asthma visits to a hospital per 100,000 residents.

The highest rates for hospital visits involved children aged 4 or younger, but the rate also was high for those aged 5 to 14.

About 20 million Americans have asthma, which is the leading cause of long-term illness in children.

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Are fireworks a health hazard?

By Scot Lehigh Globe Columnist July 06, 2017

Brendan Lynch/Globe Staff

It’s a question that has no doubt occurred to many as they’ve watched fireworks fill the sky with their magical light: Are there environmental and health effects from having so many rockets bursting in air?

Even in an era when seemingly every other summer weekend is cause for some kind of public or private fireworks celebration, many over lakes and ponds, we still don’t know for certain. But there is cause for concern. After all, the so-called color emitters that produce the dazzling hues are often metal salts or oxides or exotic compounds. The greens are usually from barium, the reds from strontium carbonate or lithium salts, the blues from copper chlorides, the whites from aluminum, magnesium, or titanium. Then there are the oxidizers to accelerate the burning of the color emitters, and the gunpowder often used to propel the rocket aloft and blow it apart. Some of those substances can have serious health effects.

“It is a really good question, and it is coming up more and more because we seem to be getting more liberal about the private use of fireworks,” says James Haney, a professor of biological sciences at the University of New Hampshire. “Since many of these are relatively rare, they haven’t been studied a great deal in fresh water.”

One disquieting measure of pyrotechnic pollution came from before and after testing during the Stockholm Water Festival in 1996. That showed airborne levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, copper, chromium, and zinc up precipitously (as much as 500 percent), while airborne arsenic levels were double the normal level. Some of those substances are no longer in use. Still, air pollution after effects from fireworks remain a problem.

“The gases from the rocket and the explosion are released into the atmosphere, where they are inhaled by humans and animals, and hurt the ozone layer,” Jody Connor, then director of Limnology at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, wrote in 2008. “In addition to the gases, the debris and burning metals fall back to earth where they litter the area, contaminate aquatic ecosystems, and poison the wildlife, eventually working their way up the food chain.”

In the United States, the fireworks fallout focus has been mainly on perchlorate, a chemical compound that provides the oxygen necessary for burning. Perchlorate, which can hamper the functioning of the thyroid gland, is a particular health risk for pregnant women and children. It is also considered a likely carcinogen. Some fireworks manufacturers have moved away from its use, though fireworks without it are generally more expensive.

According to a 2006 Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection report, perchlorate, estimated to be 40 percent of the content of all fireworks, produces “particulate/debris fallout . . . that uniformly descends to the ground over a ‘football field’ size area of 3,600 square meters.”

So is enough being released to cause real harm?

That’s where uncertainty sets in. In 2007, the Massachusetts DEP concluded that the decade-long use of part of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as a fireworks launching site was the likely cause of perchlorate contaminaton in nearby soil and groundwater. DEP has also found significant levels in nine municipal water supplies, with fireworks the suspected cause in three.

In 2007, a three-year EPA study of pollution levels at Oklahoma’s Wintersmith Lake concluded that perchlorate levels increased between 24 and 1,028 (!) times background levels within 14 hours of a fireworks display, which, in the upper ranges was well above the concern level for drinking water. That said, a 2010 study at Lake George, New York, which has regular fireworks during the summer, did not find elevated levels of perchlorate.

Given both the current concerns and the larger uncertainty, we need more research. And in a region like ours, which is chockablock with universities and lakes, that’s a task awaiting a team of willing scientists.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.

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