The dangers of fireworks: increased fire risk in drought and decreased air quality

Although fireworks can seem like a harmless way to celebrate the Fourth of July, they're actually more dangerous than most people realize.

The concern of fires - specifically wildfires - becomes more apparent when drought conditions are present. This meteorological summer season has been dry with drought conditions continuing to develop over the past month. Even with the rain this weekend, we are still 1.4 inches under the amount of rainfall we should be seeing by this point in the season.

Researchers have found that more wildfires are started on the Fourth of July than on any other day of the year. In 2021 alone, the National Fire Protection Association found that there were over 12,000 fires started due to fireworks.

Fire isn’t the only danger associated with fireworks, pollution and air quality can be negatively impacted as well. The smoke given off by fireworks contains different types of particles that can be harmful to human health.

To start, different metals give fireworks their vibrant colors - for example blue is produced by copper and yellow is produced by sodium, both of which are released into the atmosphere during these explosions. Fireworks also produce particulate matter called PM2.5, the same kind we saw when smoke from the Canadian wildfires drifted in.

Looking at a bigger city where more fireworks are sparked off, Chicago’s PM2.5 levels on average spike on July 4th each year. In 2021, air quality in the Windy City jumped from “good” to “moderate” on July 4th with particulates lingering for a few days.

To help cut back on how many fireworks are sparked, you can attend a local fireworks display - think of it like carpooling! Just like how you would share a ride to cut down on carbon emissions, you can also attend a public fireworks show that’s already planned to happen to eliminate the number of fireworks that are lit off.

With the threat of fire and increased air pollution, when it comes to fireworks, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

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