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What Happens to Air Quality After 4th of July Fireworks? A Closer Look at Air Pollution After the Holiday

Learn how the air quality will suffer after the big holiday

July 4th is all about celebrating our country’s freedom and what better way to do that than set off a beautiful display of fireworks into the sky? Well, it seems that despite the lovely colors we get to see on the holiday, people should expect to see a decrease in our air quality after the fact.

It is obvious to most that setting off massive fireworks all over the country will have some sort of effect on the surrounding air but given it’s a celebration, many often don’t think about the consequences of it. But given the extreme heat many have been experiencing, this unhealthy air might be sticking around a bit longer than usual.

What happens to the air quality after a fireworks display?

Fireworks are exciting to watch and bring everyone together for the joyous holiday. But after the flashy displays go off, they leave a lot behind, including dust, soot and metal. These particles, no matter how small, can be dangerous to your health.

Fireworks Display (2017)AFP Contributor / Contributor / Getty

You can pretty much guarantee we’re going to be towards the upper end of what we see for ozone levels,” explained Scott Epstein, an overseer of air quality assessments for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “And then on the fourth and fifth of July, most years, that’s when we record the highest fine particle levels. It can be even higher than what you’d see around a wildfire.”

Every year, Americans set off nearly 300 million pounds of fireworks into the sky, making for a lovely display but also a lot of toxic waste. These particles that are released when fireworks explode not only have an effect on human health, but also on the planet itself.

Why hot temperatures make the conditions worse

There has been a recent spike in temperatures, especially in places like Southern California, which is already cause for concern for many of its residents. Now, mix that with the worsened air quality due to the bright displays in the sky and there could be a bit of an issue, especially for people with underlying health issues and children.

Epstein explained, “Higher temperatures lead to more evaporation of the compounds that form smog and actually speed up the reactions that form it in the atmosphere. So typically, we get the worst ozone levels on our hottest days.”

Cautions to take due to poor air quality

poor air quality; fireworks air quality
Poor air conditions

Any areas that are under a warning of dangerously hot conditions should take caution when going outdoors. Poor air quality can cause issues for anyone, whether they have an underlying health issue or not. So, it is necessary to take any precautions you can while enjoying the long weekend. To avoid impacts to your health, such as coughing , difficulty breathing or asthma attacks, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, or AQMD, has offered tips on how to stay healthy.

  • Try to limit exposure to the outdoors this weekend to avoid contact with polluted air
  • Keep air conditioning or an air purifier running when inside your home to keep your air clean
  • Wear a mask outside if you have any underlying health issues
  • Leave windows and doors closed
  • Limit kids outdoor playtime to keep their lungs safe from the poor air quality
  • Limit outdoor physical activity

It is necessary to take precautions around areas that have been celebrating with a big fireworks display. And if you or anyone you know falls into the category with pre-existing heart or lung issues, be sure to take extra caution this weekend.

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