Why smoke from New Year's fireworks is a big health risk in Phoenix

By Greg Hahne, Reyna Preciado
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2021 - 11:50am
Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2021 - 8:06am

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Arizona state law allows for seasonal sale and use of certain types of fireworks, such as ground-based spinners and fountains.

Maricopa County issued a warning about pollution caused by personal fireworks and burning wood over the New Years holiday. 

In the fall and winter, the state experiences temperature inversion, which keeps cold air closer to the ground. This phenomenon pushes smoke and particulate matter at lower altitudes that are easier to inhale.

This leads to adverse health effects in people, especially those with bronchitis and asthma. Maricopa County says it also increases the chances for heart attacks. 

“The particulate matter can be breathed deep into the lungs, and can cause a number of adverse health effects like increasing the effects of asthma, bronchitis,” said Ari Halpert with the Maricopa County Department of Air Quality. “And a few years ago, there was a local study that found that higher concentrations of air pollution are correlated with a number of emergency room visits.”

She recommends residents opt for fuel burning alternatives — such as propane or natural gas — and leave the fireworks to the professionals. Unlike personal fireworks, commercial pyrotechnics detonate at a high enough altitude where the smoke disperses before reaching the ground. 

The county says particulate matter pollution levels have been rising since 2016, and the holiday could put the county over the EPA’s standard. 

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