Fireworks - Toxins, PTSD, and Anxiety
(I apologize in advance for the lack of formality in some of this piece but I feel that I will get my point across best if written in a more casual manner.)
I went to a Rowdies soccer game with my family today and I really enjoyed myself. The stands were full, flags were waving everywhere, and it just seemed like there was literal joy in the air; some of the more committed fans even brought their own snare drums to encourage the crowd to get “rowdy.” I was so excited as I sat with my family at the end of the game and waited for the fireworks show to celebrate our nation’s independence day. This excitement slowly drained away as I started to think about what was actually going on around me.
Watching the fireworks, I could see that there was smoke coming off from the ends and it made me think about what kinds of toxins were being released into the environment. I’m not sure of what impact this could have on the environment or on human health, but the brief thought was still there.
As the fireworks seemed to grow louder, I started to think about who may be living nearby. I suddenly felt frightened for those that may suffer from PTSD and experience flashbacks from the immense booming of fireworks. I wondered if this was a weekend where they could afford to go away and avoid the sound or if they sat patiently waiting for it all to pass. I just hoped that they had some sort of mechanism to cope with the stress of weekends like this.
As the firework show was coming to an end, I had moved from awe over the beauty of the fireworks, to curiosity about toxin exposure, to fear that some would be suffering from the fireworks, and lastly to feeling an undertone of fear for my own safety. I hadn’t realized until that moment that the idea of being in a large crowd with firework sounds, which are extremely comparable to the sound of gunshots, would give me the slightest sense of anxiety about what was happening around me. I started to think about the violence that was going on in our country, such as the Orlando Shooting, and in other countries and imagined that people all around the world had experienced the same anxiety but that their experience wasn’t as successful as my own. The firework show sparked an anxiety for the fear of my own safety that I didn’t realize I even felt.
While this may not be directly related to medical practice, it does bring to attention the effect of science on human physical and mental health. Fireworks have been popular since before our country won its independence and I don’t foresee them going away anytime soon. While they may not be something that contribute to health on a daily basis, they are something that we should take a moment to step back and think about.
Hoping that everyone had a safe holiday weekend!