Fireworks and Air Quality

English: The New York City fireworks over the ...

English: The New York City fireworks over the East Village of New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we approach Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day in the U.S. (July 4), our thoughts turn to the pyrotechnics that are a typical part of the celebrations.  For a chemical engineer, pyrotechnics are a fascinating topic because they rely on rapid combustion reactions and the presence of various elements that give rise to the different colours.  However, my research interests are in air quality and I’m at the Air & Waste Management Association conference in Chicago, so I’m going to review the air quality impact instead. Continue reading

A Burning Issue

Kitchener is a city located next to the city of Waterloo, so close together that it’s hard to tell where one city stops and the other starts.  They are two separate legal entities however, and in Kitchener there is a raging debate about limiting or banning backyard fires (Waterloo banned them some years ago).  The debate boils down to the rights of individuals to use their property as they see fit, versus the rights of their neighbours to clean air.  On technical grounds, I would side with the people who are seeking a ban, based on what we already know about wood fires and air quality. Continue reading