Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rocket's Red Glare, Pollution in the Air

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rocket's Red Glare, Pollution in the Air

Article excerpt

Air pollution will skyrocket in New Jersey and across the country Saturday night. Guaranteed.

People are often warned around the Fourth of July about the danger of injury to hands and eyes from improperly handling fireworks, but a new federal study shows that individual and community-sponsored fireworks displays also cause a nationwide spike in particulates, a form of air pollution that can affect people with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases, such as asthma.

The study found that concentrations of particulates, or soot, average 42 percent higher during the 24-hour period starting at 8 p.m. on July 4 than on the days before and after that period. The spikes are highest from 9 to 10 p.m., when most of the fireworks displays are lighting up the skies.

Particulates are microscopic particles that can travel deep into a person's lungs, and can cause coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, as well as asthma attacks, heart attacks, stroke and even premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

"When people think of air pollution, they think of truck and car exhaust or emissions from power plants and factory smokestacks, but most don't think of fireworks," said Dian Seidel, a senior scientist for climate measurements at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who authored the study.

"Our findings demonstrate there does seem to be a discernable signal of air pollution on July Fourth and that people with asthma and other illnesses should take that into account when deciding where to watch fireworks," Seidel said.

The spikes generally subside by noon on July 5, according to the research.

Perhaps the study can serve as a silver lining to New Jerseyans disappointed that, for the second straight year, the Macy's fireworks display will take place on the distant East River rather than on the Hudson.

Beyond particulates, various studies have shown that fireworks release a variety of other pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hazardous trace elements such as aluminum, magnesium and cadmium.

Seidel's study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, used data collected between 1999 and 2013 from 315 federal air quality monitoring sites across the country, including one at Fort Lee and at four other sites in New Jersey. …

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