Air quality during and after festivals: aerosol concentrations, composition and health effects

Ajit Singh, Pallavi Pant, Francis Pope

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
464 Downloads (Pure)


Ambient particulate matter (PM) continues to be among the top environmental health concerns globally; in 2017, nearly 3 million deaths were attributed to exposure to PM2.5 around the world (HEI, 2019). While much attention is paid towards point and mobile sources of PM (e.g., power plants, vehicles), episodic/periodic events such as dust storms, use of fireworks etc. can also increase ambient PM levels and lead to adverse effects on air quality, visibility, and human health, albeit in the short-term. Fireworks and bonfires are commonly used during religious and cultural festivals including Diwali (India), Lunar New Year (China), Bastille Day (France), Guy Fawkes Night (UK), Australia Day (Australia), Fourth of July/Independence Day (USA), New Year's Eve (worldwide) as well as large sporting and other events. During these events, use of fireworks results in smoke plumes which can raise the PM concentration levels for short periods of time. This review article summarizes the current body of literature on the role of fireworks use (and bonfires) on air quality, visibility, and human health. A summary of distinct type of fireworks and existing legislations/laws in different countries is also presented. Overall, there is clear evidence that such events produce exceptionally high level of pollutants, and as a result there can be intense exposures to a multipollutant mixture. In particular, the sharpest spikes are found in pollutant concentrations (such as PM2.5, PM10, and NOx) during and immediately after the firework event, followed by a decrease in the concentrations back to background levels, typically within 24 h. Peak concentrations of pollutants during firework events can exceed ambient levels by 2–8 times. As a result, overall visibility also decreases significantly, and in some cases, by as much as 92% during fireworks events. Moreover, significant health risks due to fireworks activities are also reported, although limited research has been conducted on this type of rapid air pollution exposure. The review concludes with a list of suggested future research priorities required to better understand the impacts of fireworks and bonfires on human and environmental health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-232
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Research
Early online date15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Air quality
  • Fireworks
  • Particulate matter
  • Trace metals
  • Visibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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