For the past few years, the Coalition for Clean Air has been working with Comité Pro Uno and Sonoma Technology, Inc. to develop a sophisticated analysis of air pollution in Maywood. Local residents are using air quality monitoring data to develop a community-specific, actionable emission reduction and mitigation plan. Through major holidays or ordinary days, our monitors gather data to inform of potentially hazardous levels in a given area.
Maywood residents are unfortunately surrounded by rail yards, industrial facilities in the adjoining City of Vernon, a Superfund site, and the I-710 freeway, and our monitors have revealed there may be yet another threat to public health…fireworks!
Fourth of July Hazards
During the Fourth of July celebrations in 2019, levels of toxic metals in the air rose to dangerous levels. Air quality index graphs of Maywood demonstrate that on this day some of the highest concentrations are observed from 4 pm until 7 am. Residents surrounding these areas are exposed to some of California’s worst pollution. Residents with preexisting respiratory conditions such as asthma are often the most vulnerable to succumb to the negative health effects of smog, particulate matter, and air toxics. This air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, worsen respiratory infections, and lead to the development of lung cancer.
And while most folks may think of fireworks through the lens of particulate matter, these particles include lots of nasty chemicals: To achieve their colors, metals such as copper, strontium, lithium, barium, and perchlorate are all used; these chemicals are also found in batteries and rat poison. Illegal fireworks are not any better as they are known to contain lead, manganese, nickel, and chromium. These harmful metallic particles remain in the atmosphere surrounding the area and are small enough to be inhaled deep within the lungs.
Monitoring Leads To Action
When Comité Pro Uno presented community members with these results, they were incensed! Residents took the results of monitors to the City of Maywood City Council. The council members, already concerned with the fire danger these presented, decided enough was enough and passed an ordinance to prohibit the sale, possession, storage, and use of fireworks. Though our air quality monitoring programs are not specifically designed to target fireworks, we could not be happier with this outcome and the public health benefits it helps provide.
This is your state on fireworks.
Air quality levels were typical for most of July 4th, but watch for the explosion of air pollution right around 9pm. pic.twitter.com/DTxFAteXEN
— Coalition for Clean Air (@CleanairCA) July 5, 2019
Alternatives To Fireworks
There are alternatives. Synchronized drone light shows can be very impressive without the explosions that frighten pets. In 2018, Intel broke the world record for drones flown simultaneously with a five-minute light show using 2,018 drones. Check out the video.
If you do watch a traditional fireworks show, the American Lung Association suggests watching fireworks from a distance and heading inside if it gets too smoky. Many cities are already stressed by smog in the summer and the explosion of fireworks adds to the growing levels of pollution in the air. Fireworks pose a serious threat, consider reaching out to your local city council members to regulate their use. Encourage your community to consider drone light shows or, at minimum, to display fireworks downwind of spectators to avoid increased exposure to toxic metals.
We wish everyone a festive, fun and most of all safe Independence Day weekend.