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Fourth Of July Fireworks Threaten Valley Air Quality

Flickr- Baron Valium

Officials with the Valley Air District are warning about Fourth of July fireworks worsening air quality and threatening residents' health.

Fireworks can cause damaging air pollution to spike to five times the level considered safe.

When fireworks are set off, they burn, explode and release large amounts of dangerous particulate matter into the atmosphere.

Heather Heinks with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District says the tiny particles of soot, ash and metal can bury themselves deep in the body causing short and long term problems.

“Asthma attacks. Irritation of any kind of respiratory you might have. Long term exposure can lead to heart attacks. In general it is just not very good for your health,” Heinks said.

The increase in air pollution comes on top of negative air quality readings that plague the valley, due in part to the prolonged drought.

"Those levels will jump to three, four, maybe five times higher than the health based standards set by the federal government," Heather Heinks

Particulate matter is any air pollution including metals, and soil or dust particles that are smaller than 10 millimeters in diameter. Air pollution 2.5 millimeters is consider fine particulate matter and is especially concerning to air quality experts.

The increase in particulate pollution is so intense, that air pollution monitors spike between the hours of 8 pm and midnight on July Fourth when people are setting fireworks off.

“Those levels will jump to three, four, maybe five times higher than the health based standards set by the federal government,” Heinks said.

Heinks says people sensitive to the pollution, the elderly and young children should avoid fireworks and stay inside if possible.

The air pollution control districts has real time air quality tracking on their website here.

Jeffrey Hess is a reporter and Morning Edition news host for Valley Public Radio. Jeffrey was born and raised in a small town in rural southeast Ohio. After graduating from Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio with a communications degree, Jeffrey embarked on a radio career. After brief stops at stations in Ohio and Texas, and not so brief stops in Florida and Mississippi, Jeffrey and his new wife Shivon are happy to be part Valley Public Radio.