Fireworks are used in celebrations around the world. However, they can emit large amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere, including particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, and perchlorates. This is bad for the environment and can result in health problems such as respiratory diseases. As a result, some cities have banned their use. However, the displays are an important part of many traditional celebrations, and more environmentally friendly pyrotechnics have been developed to allow their continued use. These “greener” fireworks feature, e.g., smokeless charges and sulfur-free propellants. Although research suggests that these fireworks emit fewer pollutants, their exact impact on air quality has been challenging to evaluate.
Ying Li, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China, and colleagues have estimated the emissions from environmentally friendly fireworks and compared their predictions with data from a large fireworks display held in Shenzhen, China, on Chinese National Day 2019. The team estimated emissions of PM2.5, i.e., particulate matter with a diameter of ≤2.5 µm, from the over 160,000 environmentally friendly fireworks set off during the display, as well as emissions from traditional fireworks.
They used information on the wind direction, wind speed, temperature, and chemical composition of the fireworks to simulate the size, trajectory, and peak PM2.5 values for the smoke plume resulting from the event. The researchers compared their simulated values with actual data on PM2.5 concentrations measured at 75 monitoring stations throughout the city following the fireworks display. The data on the smoke plume’s movement and the peak PM2.5 concentrations were in agreement with the team’s predictions.
According to this validated simulation, the use of environmentally friendly fireworks produces a much smaller, shorter-lasting plume, with only 15–65 % of the PM2.5 emissions of a comparable display using traditional fireworks. However, the peak concentration of PM2.5 still greatly exceeds safe limits. This led the researchers to conclude that even for “green” fireworks, the amount used in one display should be restricted to limit air pollution.
- Are Environmentally Friendly Fireworks Really “Green” for Air Quality? A Study from the 2019 National Day Fireworks Display in Shenzhen,
Shidong Fan, Ying Li, Chanfang Liu,
Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021.