Fireworks Displays

Fireworks explodingFireworks displays are a spectacular and traditional method of celebrating some national and cultural traditions such as Independence Day on the 4th of July.

On July 4th, 2008 a fine particulate monitor in Davenport measured a 24-hour fine particulate concentration of 62.3 ug/m^3 (micrograms per cubic meter), nearly twice the EPA health threshold of 35.5 ug/m^3. This was the highest value measured at the site since the monitor was installed in January, 1999.

As this event demonstrated, under the right meteorological conditions, the emissions from fireworks displays can be trapped near the ground and build up to unhealthful levels. The DNR recommends that members of the public take reasonable precautions to minimize exposures to emissions from fireworks displays, including avoiding areas of dense smoke near the launch areas of fireworks displays.

Asthmatics and those with respiratory difficulties, as well as the elderly and children, are the groups most likely to experience adverse health effects associated with elevated levels of fine particles. The DNR suggests that people who are susceptible to the impacts of high particulate levels view these displays from a safe distance and from a vantage point upwind of the fireworks. EPA advises that individuals limit prolonged outdoor exertion when particulate levels are elevated.

Concern over chemicals contained in fireworks smoke (including perchlorate and colorant metals) has lead to the development of a new variety of cleaner burning fireworks based on nitrogen-rich compounds. These fireworks do not require the use of perchlorate as an oxidizer, and because they produce less smoke, require smaller amounts of potentially toxic metal colorants. The Disney Corporation has pioneered the use of compressed air (instead of black powder) as a propellant at its fireworks displays. The DNR recommends that communities consider these “low- smoke” alternatives to conventional fireworks when planning their displays.