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  • New Year’s Celebrations Could Taint the Air

    Dec 30, 2014 | Read More News
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    As the crystal ball drops in Times Square, so could the quality of our air in Pima County. For several years, air quality analysts at Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) have noticed that levels of small particulates increase on New Year’s Eve.

    “Since the highest levels are right around midnight, we suspect they are due to fireworks set off by residents to celebrate the New Year,” said Beth Gorman, Senior Program Manager at PDEQ. In 2010 a state law went into effect that allows the sales of fireworks in Arizona. “Fireplace use and other smoke-generating activities associated with family and friends gathering together on a festive winter night also contribute to higher levels of particulate matter in the air,” said Gorman. Fireworks

    Particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or smaller is referred to as “fine particles” and tends to come from combustion-related sources, such as fireplaces, fireworks, and the burning of fossil fuel. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, these fine particles contain microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. Numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of problems, including:

    • premature death in people with heart or lung disease;    
    • nonfatal heart attacks;
    • irregular heartbeat;
    • aggravated asthma;
    • decreased lung function; and
    • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing.

    People with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults are the most likely to be affected by particle pollution exposure.

    “We are fortunate that our background levels of air pollution are low enough at this point that temporary increases in particulate matter shouldn’t require us to implement ‘no-burn or no-fireworks days’ or violate EPA health standards,” Gorman said. “The Phoenix and Nogales area often have air quality problems around these holidays, but so far, our air quality in Pima County has stayed within the healthy range. But people who are sensitive to air pollution may want to stay away from smoky and fireworks-prone areas over the holiday.”

    Up-to-the-hour air quality information is available on the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality’s website. And tips for smarter wood burning are also available on the PDEQ website.