How do Fireworks Affect Local Air Quality?

Effects of Independence Day fireworks on atmospheric concentrations of fine particulate matter in the United States (7 page pdf, Dian J. Seidel, Abigail N. Birnbaum, Atmospheric Environment, May 30, 2015)
Also discussed here: July 4 fireworks spark astonishing spike in air pollution, NOAA study finds (Jason Samenow, Washington Post, Jun. 30, 2015)

Today we review a nation-wide assessment of the impact of fireworks on local air quality in the USA. Results indicate tht the particulates emitted during these displays increased particulate pollution by 42% on average, although individual cities had increases of 400% temporarily and other venues such as the International Fireworks Competition in Montreal and New Years Eve in Germany showed increases of 40 to 50 times more. As the particulate emissions from these eruptions last only for a few hours, the higher pollution levels are not counted in either the national air quality regulations (such as National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM2.5 in the USA or European Union PM10 air quality standard). Clearly short term air quality forecasts could be improved using the results from this study. In addition, spectators would be well advised to stay upwind from the fireworks to avoid polluted air and the health impacts that may result from breathing it.

fireworks for july 4

Key Quotes:

“Every July 4, the 14,000-plus dazzling fireworks displays across the nation have a toxic effect on our atmosphere…they temporarily increase particulate pollution by an average of 42 percent.

“PM2.5 concentrations peaked around 9-10 p.m. on July 4 at more than twice their average concentration before dropping back to background levels by around noon on July 5.”

“[in Washington DC] Between about 8 and 10 p.m., PM2.5 levels surged by over 400 percent compared to average before gradually returning to background levels the next day”

“At one site adjacent to fireworks, hourly PM2.5 levels climb to ~500 mg/m3, and 24-hr average concentrations increase by 48 mg/m3 (370%).”
“Increase in PM2.5 by up to a factor of 50 within the fireworks plume and within 2 km of the launch site during the 2007 Montreal International Fireworks Competition”

“Increase in sub-micron particle mass concentration by a factor of 10 or greater for about an hour following the 2005 New Year’s celebration fireworks in Mainz, Germany, and a daily average concentration on January 1 exceeding the European Union PM10 air quality standard of 50 mg/m3”

“Designated exceptional events are not included in determining compliance. Some fireworks events have been allowed exceptional event Designation..While the EPA does not regulate fireworks, the agency does recommend that people who are considered sensitive to particle pollution try to limit their exposure by watching fireworks from upwind – or as far away as possible,”

“Current air quality prediction efforts in the US address PM2.5, but the national prediction models do not currently include fireworks as source of
particulate emissions … although local forecasters may account for fireworks effects in communications with the public.”


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