With the Brian Head fire burning in Southwest Utah, authorities are concerned about the dangers fireworks could pose over the Fourth of July. But fire safety isn’t the only concern to keep in mind.
There are bans on backyard fireworks in virtually all of Utah. But many people will ignore those laws and set off fireworks. Particulate matter produced from firework smoke is a health issue.
"If you’ve ever been out there, you’ve been out in the road lighting off fountains, you see that blue smoke that comes off. And this is heavy in PM2.5," says Jared Mendenhall.
Mendenhall works with the Utah Division of Air Quality. The PM2.5 he mentioned is particulate matter emitted from fireworks that is too fine to be naturally filtered out by a person’s lungs.
Over the Fourth of July weekend and during Pioneer Day, Mendenhall says DAQ sees a spike in particulate matter similar to air quality during an inversion. Those most at risk are individuals with vulnerable lungs.
"The young people with the developing lungs, the older people where the lungs aren’t what they used to be, and then anybody that just has a respiratory issue," Mendenhall says.
Another type of firework to watch out for: sparklers. Cambree Applegate is the Director of Safe Kids Utah.
"Sparklers are probably the one firework that most people think is safe but they actually can burn up to 1,200 degrees," Applegate says.
Applegate says children’s relatively short arms can also leave sparklers close to their faces and bodies. She suggests glow sticks as a safe alternative for small kids that can still be entertaining.
According to Jared Mendenhall, PM2.5 particulate matter levels return to normal within a few days after the Fourth.
Both say an all-around good bet for safety, smoke inhalation, and fires are the professional firework displays put on by local cities.