Many of us are looking forward to upcoming Fourth of July celebrations, including fireworks displays, backyard barbecues, and family gatherings.
But it’s important to remember that while these events are fun and enjoyable, they can also have a negative impact on air quality and human health.
Fireworks, in particular, are notorious for their adverse effects on air quality. Fireworks contain a mixture of compounds such as sulfur, carbon, and potassium nitrate. When ignited, these compounds propel fine particulate matter (also known as soot, or PM2.5) and other serious pollutants into the surrounding air, where they can cause major respiratory issues and other health problems.
Another source of local air pollution comes from barbecuing or grilling—an activity that can emit smoke and harmful compounds like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide.
CleanAIRE NC engages North Carolinians in the fight for cleaner air. We’re equipping volunteer community scientists (a.k.a. “AirKeepers”) with air monitoring devices to take measurements, track, and help interpret their local air quality. This allows us to collect data about the air we share.
Scientists and change-makers can use the real-time data we collect to make a difference in the air we breathe. Health professionals can share the data with their patients to inform them when outdoor air quality is unhealthy. The map below (from AirNow.gov) provides a snapshot of North Carolina’s air quality on July 4, 2022 between the hours of 7PM – 2AM, before and after Independence Day Celebrations.
Poor air quality can have significant impacts on human health—especially in people with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. The tiny air pollutants that make up soot pollution are easily inhaled into our lungs, where they are small enough to pass into our bloodstream and wreak havoc on other primary organs, including the heart and brain.
Exposure to smoke, fine particulate matter, and other harmful air pollutants has even been linked to nine of the ten leading causes of death in North Carolina, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and acute respiratory ailments like asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Air pollution affects more than just our lungs. Conditions labeled with an *asterisk are among the ten leading causes of death in North Carolina.
So, what can we do to reduce our air quality impact during our Independence Day celebrations? One simple change can be to opt for environmentally friendly, low-emission firework options. Consider using smokeless grills and upgrading to newer models that produce less pollution.
Health professionals can inform their patients and community members about the health impacts of increased PM2.5 levels by sharing the following resources:
Together, we can strive to reduce the negative impacts our celebrations have on the environment and the health of our communities. Wishing you a happy and safe Fourth of July, from all of us at CleanAIRE NC!