Fourth of July fireworks push air pollution to dangerous new levels every year, according a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. The agency noted that nationwide firework displays during Independence Day boost particulate air pollution by 42 percent.
NOAA researchers published the report in the journal Atmospheric Environment.
Study authors sifted through particulate air pollution records running from 1999 through 2013 about that specific day. The data was gathered by more than 300 air quality stations across the U.S.
The research team compared particulate pollution levels on Independence Day with the prior and following days and learned that those levels were unusually high especially around 9 to 10 p.m. The particulate pollution levels were twice as high as background levels. But the air pollution came back to normal the following day around noon.
In Washington, D.C., particulate air pollution levels during the national event at about 3 miles from the National Mall were up to 40 percent higher than they usually are in the rest of the year. But around 8 to 10 p.m. those levels skyrocketed by more than 400 percent to return to normal the following day.
In Ogden, UT, on 4th of July air pollution levels soared by 370 percent during daytime to hit a mind-blowing 3,700 percent at around 10 p.m. Dian Seidel, senior author of the study, deemed the new study a “wake-up call” especially for people that are highly sensitive to particulate matter exposure.
The fine particles in the particulate matter are 1/30th the size of a human hair, but they can boost lung and heart disease risk by a significant amount, experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautioned.
The particles also make respiratory problems such as asthma worse. Nevertheless, EPA tolerates the spike in July 4th air pollution if states can prove that it was caused by firework displays alone.
NOAA researchers recommend that people with a history of respiratory problems to restrict their firework exposure by watching the show from a remote location or from an upwind direction.
“People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and be sure to have their quick relief medicine handy,”
the agency’s experts added.
Yet there are states that either have strict regulations on July 4th fireworks or are considering banning them for good. For instance, Portland officials are currently discussing whether pyrotechnics should be banned this Fourth of July weekend. The official position will be disclosed on Wednesday.
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