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Climate and Environment

Once Again, Fireworks Made Bad Air Quality Explode In LA. Here's How They Affect Our Health

Bursts of fireworks and smoke appear in the foreground at night with part of the downtown L.A. skyline in the background.
In an aerial view, large illegal fireworks are set off late into the night, long after the professional Independence Day shows have ended yesterday in Los Angeles
(David McNew
/
Getty Images)
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On the morning of July 5th, many Angelenos woke up to a smoky haze. That’s one side effect of Fourth of July fireworks — and it can be dangerous for your health.

By late Monday, smoke from both planned and unplanned fireworks displays had made air quality dangerously bad across most of the Southland, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

As of midday, coastal areas largely cleared up. Smoky air remained bad throughout much of the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, and the Inland Empire, according to the agency, which is responsible for improving air quality in large portions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

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And it was all predictable. Scott Epstein, supervisor of AQMD’s Air Quality Assessment Program, said every July 5th, we have some of the worst air quality that we see all year.

“Everybody should take some precautions during periods of unhealthy air, but sensitive individuals such as the elderly or children or people that have pre-existing heart and lung issues really need to be extra careful,” he said.

So far this year’s fireworks pollution doesn’t look quite as bad as last year, Epstein said, but the agency will need to wait 24 hours to confirm the data. In 2020, fireworks created a record amount of pollution for Independence Day celebrations, he said.

Epstein said fireworks emit particulate matter 2.5, an extremely fine particle that gets deep into the lungs and can cause coughing and breathing difficulty, aggravate asthma or even trigger heart attacks.

Drawing compares 2.5 particulate matter to a human hair, beach sand and pollen to show how tiny the particles are.
(Courtesy EPA)

Children, older people and people with heart and lung issues are particularly at risk and long-term exposure to the stuff has even been linked to premature death, he said.

You can protect yourself by leaving doors and windows closed at home, limiting outdoor activity for kids and sensitive individuals as much as possible, running an air purifier if you have one, and wearing that N95 mask when you do go outside.

You can monitor your local air quality at aqmd.gov or download the AQMD phone app.

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