Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Unhealthy Fireworks Smoke Prompts Call For New Approach to Utah Fireworks

The smoke from fireworks skyrocketed pollution levels in Salt Lake, Weber, Tooele and Utah counties last weekend.  Monitors in Salt Lake County showed air quality ranging from unhealthy and very unhealthy for over four hours.

Air pollution spiked over the holiday weekend as it often does in Utah around the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day.

“Pretty toxic stuff,” says Brian Moench, founder of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “And the primary reason is there are a lot of toxic compounds that are in fireworks that you don’t find in tailpipes and smokestacks, heavy metals in particular.”

The group is poised to ask state lawmakers to address this old health threat in a new way.

Moench sees a kind of fireworks arms race accelerating among neighbors. And his group will ask state lawmakers to put a stop to it in the name of better health. He says other states limit personal fireworks to the day of a celebration. Some have stricter controls on the types of fireworks allowed, he says.

Physicians for a Healthy Environment will ask the legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus to consider restrictions like that at a meeting later this week.

“We think patriotism can be celebrated and a lot of people can have a lot of fun with some fireworks,” he says, “but I think we’ve reached the point where we’re kinda going overboard, and we are creating a public health menace, at least on the short term.”

A nationwide study last year from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration showed that particulate pollution increased an average of 42 percent on Independence Day based on data from 315 areas.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.