Study: Fireworks contribute to air pollution, public health issues


A 2008 Fourth of July fireworks show in Des Moines. (Andy Langager/Flickr)
A 2008 Fourth of July firework show in Des Moines. (Andy Langager/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | July 3, 2015

Firework shows have long been a Fourth of July tradition but new research finds that they could be more damaging to the environment and public health than previously thought.

A recent study published in the journal Atmospheric Science found that firework shows lead to a 42 percent increase in concentrations of fine particulate matter in the air on July 4 alone. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) looked at data from 315 sites around the country between 1999 and 2013 and found that ten of the sites saw air quality levels that would be deemed unsafe based on Environmental Protection Agency standards. Air quality was found to be poorest between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Independence Day with levels generally returning to normal around noon on July 5.

“We chose the holiday, not to put a damper on celebrations of America’s independence, but because it is the best way to do a nationwide study of the effects of fireworks on air quality,” said Dian Seidel, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in College Park, Maryland. “These results will help improve air quality predictions, which currently don’t account for fireworks as a source of air pollution. The study is also another wake up call for those who may be particularly sensitive to the effects of fine particulate matter.”

Data from EPA shows that high levels of fine particulate matter can cause health issues ranging from heart attacks to respiratory problems.

Check out this interactive map to look at real-time air quality data in your area.

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