PHOENIX (December 28, 2021)– Each year during the holiday season, Maricopa County experiences high concentrations of particulate matter the size of 2.5 microns, more commonly known as PM2.5 or smoke. The smoke is caused by the use of personal fireworks and wood burning devices and greatly contributes to harmful air pollution. This holiday season, the Maricopa County Air Quality Department (MCAQD) encourages Maricopa County residents, businesses, and visitors to opt for different celebratory activities and leave the fireworks to the professionals.
Colder temperatures during the fall and winter months cause what is known as a temperature inversion. Normally, the temperature at the surface is warm and decreases as altitude increases. The opposite is true during a temperature inversion, this temperature change and the Valley’s topography form a type of “lid” that traps polluting particles near the surface. This means, that harmful air pollutants, like PM2.5 particles, percolate and our breathed in by residents until the temperature inversion breaks. These factors contribute to a higher chance of exceeding air pollution thresholds and adverse health effects.
Elevated particulate pollution has immediate impact on the respiratory health among children, seniors, and others with existing respiratory diseases. Smoke can be absorbed into the blood stream, impacting lung function, exacerbating bronchitis and asthma, and increasing chances for heart attacks. A local study conducted in Maricopa County demonstrated that high pollution days that exceed the PM2.5 health standard increased the risk of hospitalizations for asthma patients.
The use of fireworks currently pose a significant challenge to improve the quality of air in Maricopa County. Commercial and personal fireworks emit PM2.5 when they explode. Commercial fireworks explode at a high enough altitude that the smoke disperses sufficiently prior to reaching ground level. Personal fireworks explode near the surface, the smoke emitted does not disperse as quickly, therefore higher concentrations of smoke remain near the ground where it can be inhaled by people, especially those in sensitive groups.
Maricopa County is currently meeting both the annual and daily PM2.5 standards. PM2.5 levels rose almost every year since 2016 and is approaching the standard. The addition of firework smoke on days that have traditionally not been high PM2.5 days could elevate the monitoring data and put Maricopa County at risk to violate the EPA PM2.5 standard and to be classified as non-attainment.
“MCAQD is an advocate for clean air and urges all Maricopa County residents and visitors to be aware of how our individual choices can have a positive impact on the reduction of air pollution and help the community breath cleaner air this holiday season,” said MCAQD’s Director, Philip McNeely.
Residents and visitors can help reduce air pollution by opting to leave the use of fireworks to the professionals, to not burn wood, and opt for fuel burning alternatives such as propane or natural gas. MCAQD has partnered with local organizations and businesses to offer two programs that help residents switch to cleaner-burning alternatives. The Maricopa County’s Fireplace Retrofit and Propane Fire Pit programs are designed to reduce smoke pollution. The programs offer no charge or discount options for retrofitting a wood burning fireplace with a natural gas log set or for purchasing propane fire pits to eligible residents.
To learn more about the air pollution reduction programs and the Burn Cleaner, Burn Better campaign, visit CleanAirMakeMore.com/noburn. To find out if it is a No Burn Day, visit CleanAirMakeMore.com, download the Clean Air Make More mobile app through the Apple Store or Google Play, or call 602-506-6400.
About Maricopa County Air Quality Department
MCAQD’s mission is to improve the air of Maricopa County so customers, residents, and visitors can live, work, and play in a healthy environment. MCAQD is governed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and follows air quality standards set forth by the federal Clean Air Act. For air quality information and resources, visit CleanAirMakeMore.com.
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