July 03, 2014

July 4th: One of the Worst Air Quality Days of the Year.

Tomorrow your lungs will be tested!

You will get to experience the typical air quality of Beijing!

It's July 4th, fireworks time.  Time to get ready!

Proper preparation is important for that special July 4th meal.

Fireworks may be pretty, but they are loaded with noxious materials.  To quote from one environmental web site:

fireworks produce smoke and dust that contain various heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and other noxious chemicals. Barium, for instance, is used to produce brilliant green colors in fireworks displays, despite being poisonous and radioactive. Copper compounds are used to produce blue colors, even though they contain dioxin, which has been linked to cancer. Cadmium, lithium, antimony, rubidium, strontium, lead and potassium nitrate are also commonly used to produce different effects, even though they can cause a host of respiratory and other health problems."

The most obvious impact of fireworks is the smoke and reduction of visibility caused by the huge production of particles.  Let me prove this to use by showing you the amount of small particles (PM2.5, particles less than 2.5 micros) for a few observing sites around western Washington for June 30 to July 6 for the last years.  For 2013, 2012, and 2011 there are clear peaks late on the 4th, with MUCH lower values before. For some reason, there was a secondary peak on July 3rd in 2010 in Marysville....perhaps some folks were practicing that year at the famous "boom city" in that town.

For highly sensitive individuals with asthma, fireworks smoke can be dangerous, including some reports of fireworks causing asthma attacks.  In one paper, described in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, a 9-year-old girl with moderate asthma suffered a severe asthma attack and died after playing with sparklers at a Fourth of July picnic. Another 2008 study found that the particles from some professional displays contain barium aerosols and could potentially exacerbate asthma..

 The Tulalip tribe's boom city is  a major source of fireworks smoke.

And then there are the fire risks from fireworks, with the  inevitable loss of several homes in the region each year as rockets or other fireworks displays ignite wooden roofs and cause brush fires.

The good news?   This source of pollution is very short lived and generally gone the next morning...


  1. Better stay indoors with drapes pulled and a N95 particle mask.

  2. Your quote from "one environmental web site" contains enough nonsense to muddy up the factual portion of your post.

  3. Right, Pete, barium isn't radioactive unless there is radium in it, and copper salts don't have to have dioxins in them- copper is a trace nutrient. While cadmium, antimony, barium, and lead are toxic, and should be shunned by manufactureres, the others, in trace amounts, are not. While I am all for environment, groups that overstate the problems just discredit themselves. Fortunately, this is a once-a-year event, so it shouldn't be too detrimental as long as it doesn't start a fire.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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