The morning after Independence Day, millions of Americans awoke to air quality alerts in every state. Many people are curious about how fireworks impact air quality in the midst of current worries about smoke from wildfires raging across Canada.
According to a 2015 review of air quality data from 1999-2013, the amount of Independence Day fireworks displays in a normal year increases concentrations of particulate matter in the air by up to 42%.Researchers found that hourly concentrations were greater on the evening of July 4 and the morning of July 5 in the study than they were two days earlier and two days later.
He said that this year’s “even worse air” quality was caused by “the usual rise in airborne particulates combining with the high baseline of poor quality of air from the wildfire smoke.”
Residents of Seattle awoke to an even more serious warning as smoke from three sources—fireworks, the ongoing McEwan fire in Washington state, and Canadian wildfires—contributed to foggy sky and poor air quality, according to CBS affiliate KIRO. According to the station, numerous communities from Seattle to Tacoma had “unhealthy” air quality levels as the smoke from the fireworks dispersed.
North Seattle saw “unhealthy for sensitive groups” air quality, South Seattle experienced “unhealthy” air quality in some areas, and Tacoma experienced “very unhealthy” air quality in some areas.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District in Southern California issued a warning for the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The warning was issued on Tuesday afternoon and was supposed to last till Wednesday. According to the agency, July 4 and 5 are often among the worst days of the year for airborne particles in the South Coast Air Basin.
“Breathing in fine particulate matter can cause a wide variety of cardiovascular and respiratory health effects, such as heart attacks, asthma aggravation, reduced lung function, coughing, or breathing problems and may lead to premature death in people with existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions,” the agency said in a statement.
A “Code Orange” alert was issued for the nation’s capital as a result of the fireworks’ lingering smoke while millions of people on the East Coast descended onto Washington, D.C.’s National Mall for a stirring display of patriotism, according to AirNow. The area in and around Washington, D.C., as well as Prince George’s County and other southern Maryland counties, were also included in the notice.
According to Knabb, “winds are not especially brisk to accelerate dispersion.” However, he predicted that midday heating would be sufficient to mix with the atmosphere, bring air to the surface, and improve dispersion.
Millions of people have been affected by the smoke’s impact on air quality, with the Northeast and Upper Midwest experiencing some of the worst conditions. There will likely be sporadic flare-ups of wildfire smoke in the northern United States.
It won’t occur frequently or continuously, according to Knabb. But it probably will for several weeks on and off.
The warnings follow numerous communities’ decision to substitute drone shows for fireworks displays for their Fourth of July celebrations this year, including Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boulder, Colorado.
According to Rick Boss of Sky Elements Drone Shows, when performing, drones don’t produce any smoke or trash. “All we leave behind are wonderful memories,”
How can I protect myself?
According to scientific research, inhaling the smoke and particles from fireworks can cause coughing, a fever, and breathing difficulties. The most vulnerable groups include children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and pregnant women.
Dr. Bob Lahita, a rheumatologist, stated last month regarding the potential health impact that “the particulates that’s in this haze is important because it does irritation the bronchials, the tiny tubes that go down to your lungs and link to the alveoli, which are the sacs that allow you to breathe,” adding that anybody who relates to those “sensitive groups” should avoid going outdoors when levels are high.
Poor air quality has been associated with early death and can exacerbate chronic heart conditions such congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.
Additionally, smoke exposure appears to damage the immune system, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
On the website of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Neha Solanki states that “we inhale in smoke and it gets into our bloodstream.” The immune system then becomes activated and may cause an inflammatory response as the particles adhere to a specific area of our bodies.
In times of poor air quality, officials advise those in the impacted areas to follow these recommendations:
- Remain indoors and keep the windows and doors closed to reduce your exposure.
Avoid engaging in strenuous exercise.
- Start an air purifier or the air conditioning. Avoid using whole-house fans that draw in outside air, such as swamp coolers.
- Reduce the use of candles, incense, pan frying, grilling, and other indoor air pollution sources.
- Don’t burn wood in your fireplace or fire pit.