Impacts of Independence Day Fireworks on Pollution Levels of Atmospheric Polycyclic aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the U.S.

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Fireworks on Independence Day have been identified as a nationwide but short-term source of particulate matter in the U.S. No study has specifically examined their impacts on ambient polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Based on data between 1990 and 2019 in the Air Quality System, we identified 76 unique events that had PAH measurements on both July 4th days and control days (within 15 days before and after July 4th). We compared concentrations and diagnostic ratios of 16 priority PAHs between event and control days using Wilcoxon signed-rank tests and multivariable regressions. A local PAH monitoring campaign was conducted at eight sites in Memphis, Tennessee, to obtain a close observation of PAH changes. The national geometric mean (GM) concentrations of summed 16 PAHs (ΣPAHs) were similar between event and control days (48.1 ng/m3 vs. 52.8 ng/m3, p = 0.98). About a quarter of events had elevated PAH concentrations compared with control days. Higher diagnostic ratios were found on event days, suggesting more contributions from fireworks sources. PAHs on July 4th were unlikely to cause acute or chronic health effects. While the local monitoring showed a 15% increase of ΣPAHs on July 4th, the difference was not significant (p = 0.62). Elevated PAH concentrations occurred at sites near fireworks sources and without major traffics, but did not occur at those in remote areas or near major interstate highways. In conclusion, this study finds that Independence Day fireworks have negligible impacts on atmospheric PAHs at the national level, and are unlikely to pose significant health risks. The firework effect is localized within a limited geographic scale, suggesting potential needs for local monitoring and control programs.