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Thursday
Jan122017

Fireworks and their impact on the environment and on human health

Have you enjoyed all the fireworks on New Year’s Eve? Maybe all of us should remember this for next year: The fine dust pollution in Munich, Germany was 564 mg/m3 on New Year’s Eve – more than 14 times the maximal annual mean value of 40 mg/m3.

Fine dust pollution can – depending on their actual size – penetrate the trachea and smaller particles can even reach the lung. Fine dust pollution is associated with more respiratory diseases, exacerbation in asthmatic patients, cardiovascular problems and even lung cancer.

The chart below shows the daily mean concentration of very small particles (smaller than 2.5 mm), which are especially worrying as they readily penetrate into bronchioles and may even reach the bloodstream, in Munich in December and January with a huge peak on New Year’s Eve.

Just one more number, to put the extent of the pollution into context: Every year fireworks release about 4000 tons of fine dust in Germany (PM10 – particles smaller than 10 mm), which are equal to 15 % of all fine dust released in traffic in ONE YEAR.

On top of the possible health hazards of fine dust pollution the simple volume of fireworks can be dangerous too! Alone in Germany (I’m sorry for all the data from Germany, but I spent New Year’s there :-D) around 8000 people are suffering from damage to the inner ear each New Year’s Eve, with about one third of them suffering permanently.

Another environmental problem of fireworks is the fact, that there is still unburnt residues inside, like propellants or colorants, which in turn can pollute lakes and rivers. One exemplary residue is Perchlorate, which is associated with thyroid problems.

Maybe all of us should think about reducing our use of fireworks and instead enjoy watching all those firework explosions of our neighbors.

If you like to read something from a rather chemical perspective about greener fireworks or their ingredients, I’d recommend this article: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120611-greener-cleaner-fireworks

-NS

 

References:

http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/479/publikationen/hgp_wenn_die_luft_zum_schneiden_ist_0.pdf (in German)

http://theconversation.com/our-prettiest-pollutant-just-how-bad-are-fireworks-for-the-environment-52451

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