Poor air quality lingers in LA after July 4th fireworks displays

Air quality dropped significantly after hundreds of fireworks displays lit up the skies across the Los Angeles area on July 4 Monday, remaining at unhealthy levels in many areas until Tuesday morning.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a particulate advisory until Tuesday for much of Southern California, from Los Angeles to the Coachella Valley, over fireworks, which emit high levels of particulate matter and metallic air pollutants.

“Particulate matter levels on July 4 and July 5 are typically among the worst days of the year in the South Coast Air Basin,” the consultancy said. “The smoke and combustion products of fireworks add to the fines already present in the basin, which are primarily caused by motor vehicles, as well as fugitive dust and industrial emissions.”

Illegal fireworks explode over downtown Los Angeles on July 4.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The pollution from fireworks last July 4 caused the second worst air quality measures on record over the holidays.

Areas outside the city of Los Angeles — from Thousand Oaks to El Monte and Riverside — remain in unhealthy air quality levels Tuesday morning, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Parts of downtown LA are still considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, but most of southern LA had recovered from the fireworks pollution by 10 a.m. Tuesday.

For most of Monday, readings on the U.S. Air Quality Index Scale hovered around moderate or good in the Central Los Angeles area, but not until 9 p.m. groups,” and by 10 p.m., the reading dropped two index levels into “very unhealthy,” data shows.

That level remained for the next three hours, only improving to “unhealthy” for most of Tuesday morning — a category still three levels worse than Monday’s nighttime fireworks, according to the Air Quality Index.

According to the index, northern Orange County saw a similar shift over the same period, from “good” or “moderate” air quality before 10 p.m. to “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy.” But at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, air quality in that area was back to “moderate,” data show.

The western region of San Gabriel Valley followed a similar trend during the evening’s fireworks, with Monday night’s air quality readings transitioning to “unhealthy” or “very unhealthy” by the end of Monday and Tuesday.

But some areas not far from the coast, such as Culver City, did not register drastic changes in air quality and remained healthy throughout Monday evening and Tuesday. Others further south, including Long Beach and Hermosa Beach, recovered quickly from the fireworks displays, although those areas continued to register “unhealthy” air levels shortly after 9 p.m. By Tuesday morning, most of coastal and southern LA had healthy or moderate air quality levels again.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District warned residents that inhaling particulate matter could lead to “cardiovascular and respiratory health effects” such as coughing, difficulty breathing, decreased lung function or even heart attacks.

The region’s air advisory expires on Wednesday.

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