Officials at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District are asking valley residents to avoid using personal fireworks on the Fourth of July if possible and go to professional fireworks shows instead to help protect air quality.
During a Monday news conference, Anthony Presto, an outreach and communication representative with the district, said every year the air quality spikes into the very unhealthy range as residents discharge safe and sane fireworks during the evening hours to celebrate Independence Day.
“This is something that happens every year around this time, as you know. Fireworks can really impact air quality,” Presto said.
He said Valley Air measures the fine particulate matter at 2.5 microns and smaller in the summer months in smoke from wildfires and on the Fourth of July.
“What takes place every year around this time is we reach unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution on the evening of Fourth of July, and this really impacts a lot of folks,” Presto said. “The folks that are the most sensitive will be impacted first obviously — people with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD, asthma, the elderly and children whose lungs are still developing. They are going to be hit the hardest and obviously feel it before a general healthy adult. Now when we get into the unhealthy levels that we see on the Fourth of July, everybody is impacted.”
PM 2.5 matter from fireworks includes soot, ash and some metals. Fine particulate matter can invade the bloodstream, enter deep into the lungs and increase the chance of stroke and heart attack.
The district has monitored the air quality during Fourth of July holidays in the past with their Real-time Air Advisory Network and discovered air quality levels sometimes four or five times higher than the federal health-based standard, especially at times of the day when fireworks are discharged. Officials said the high levels usually have dissipated by the next morning.
He cautioned that the fireworks bring other pollution danger other than just smoke.
“It’s also other toxics, because fireworks have heavy metals in them so you’re not just breathing smoke. There’s a lot of toxics being introduced to your body, which makes it worse.”
The district urged residents to avoid discharging fireworks at home and instead enjoy professional fireworks show in the area.
“These professional fireworks shows are much more spectacular, you can see them from miles away, and they are so high in an elevation the impact is not as great on us down here at ground level,” Presto said. “Those are able to dissipate before they hit the ground in most cases, so the impact is very small whereas personal fireworks are creating so much smoke down here at ground level where we’re all breathing it in.”
If residents do light safe and sane fireworks the district advised residents to use only half the amount they were planning on lighting as a way to ease air quality concerns.
“You don’t have to light fireworks to be patriotic,” Presto said.
Along with the fireworks concerns, the district said smoke from wildfires burning in Arizona may begin to impact the Southern San Joaquin Valley, while fires burning in Kern and Fresno counties led to a health caution issued Monday for residents in the valley.
Officials cautioned that common paper and cloth masks used for COVID-19 may not be effective in filtering the fine particulate matter in the smoke and anyone experiencing poor air quality should move indoors to a filtered, air-conditioned area.
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