Fourth of July Fireworks Add to Air Quality Woes in NYC

Canadian wildfire smoke is not solely to blame for poor air quality after Independence Day fireworks.

| 06 Jul 2023 | 02:37

New Yorkers experienced another day of poor air quality on July 5, however this time, Canadian wildfire smoke is not solely to blame. Air pollution has been shown to worsen by over 40% on July 4 and 5 due to annual Independence Day firework displays across the country, according to a 2015 study. New York City saw the aftermath of its pyrotechnic spectacles as the Air Quality Index spiked to “unhealthy” levels on July 5. Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks show alone consisted of 60,000 shells this year.

In light of recurrent air pollution hazes and increased fire risks spurred by climate change, this year, several U.S. cities decided to replace their firework shows with safer alternatives. Salt Lake City, Utah opted for a drone show this Fourth of July due to the aforementioned concerns, as did Boulder, Colo. Minneapolis, Minn. settled on a laser light show as opposed to fireworks in the name of practicality. Laser light shows are significantly cheaper than fireworks, require less staff and make less noise. It is unclear if NYC will make similar adjustments in the coming years, but given the popularity of the annual fireworks on the East River, it seems unlikely.

Still, the firework-induced air pollution comes as the City Council announced on July 4 that they would be reviewing Mayor Eric Adams’ response to the smoke that blanketed the city in June.