Midnight around the world on the first of January was heralded by dazzling displays of light and noise, as fireworks lit up the sky for many New Year's celebrations. However, the price of those pretty fireworks also packs a load of pollution that affects air quality for long after the last boom goes off.
According to data collected by researchers in London, fireworks set off during New Year's Eve, as well as other celebrations such as the Fourth of July in the U.S., Diwali in India, or Guy Fawkes Day in the UK, all release pollutants in the air that reduce air quality for days afterwards. Readings taken in India, for example, after their festival of lights, rivals that of "Beijing on a bad day."
Whenever a firework is set aflame and rockets into the sky, it releases tiny metal particles that add to urban pollution. In addition, when those fireworks eventually fall back to the ground, all those particles and chemicals eventually end up in the soil and get washed away by rain into lakes and rivers.
Some data have shown that thyroid problems have increased in relation to percolates in the water, leading many U.S. states to set limits on drinking water.
In China, where the extremely toxic air quality in Beijing and Shanghai has made headlines in the latter half of 2015, scientists have studied how fireworks added to the air pollutant problems. Their study also highlighted how these pollutants have a far-reaching effect on the environment.
"We have found that air quality is seriously affected by this human activity and the effects are much greater than we previously thought," said Wei Gong, the lead researcher of the 2014 study conducted by the Wuhan University.
Many states have already put restrictions on the use of fireworks on New Year's as well as for Fourth of July celebrations, however, on a global scale, firework pollution remains mostly unchecked.