If you’re living in Salt Lake City or Boulder, you may wonder why the Independence Day fireworks were replaced with drones this year. The same goes for if you live in Minneapolis, where the celebrations have recently been replaced with lasers.
The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, fireworks are becoming harder to source, and relying on these technologies is easier. It’s likely also cheaper in the long run to purchase these reusable systems than to rely on fireworks with only one use. However, the second reason is more important - to prevent worsening air quality and remove the potential for more wildfires.
It’s not common knowledge, but the 4th of July is the most polluted day of the year in many areas around the United States. While fireworks are often a dazzling display of vibrant colours and stunning visuals, they are incredibly polluting, and some fireworks displays decrease air quality to similar levels as wildfire smoke.
Research has found that there is a 42% increase in PM2.5 after the July 4th fireworks displays. This air pollution can persist until as late as noon the following day. For this reason, it’s always best to view the displays from afar (however, wind can cause the pollution to spread quickly).
Of course, with fireworks comes the increased chance of more wildfires as debris land in nearby fields and forests. Even the most controlled displays have the chance to go awry, and with Canada already experiencing the worst wildfire season on record, there’s no room for that risk.
While it’s important to celebrate holidays such as Independence Day, fireworks may not be the way to go about it. If you are viewing fireworks from up close, make sure to wear a mask to protect yourself from severe air pollution.