Particulate oxidative burden associated with firework activity

Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Nov 1;44(21):8295-301. doi: 10.1021/es1016284.


Firework events are capable of inducing particulate matter (PM) episodes that lead to exceedances of regulatory limit values. As short-term peaks in ambient PM concentration have been associated with negative impacts on respiratory and cardiovascular health, we performed a detailed study of the consequences of firework events in London on ambient air quality and PM composition. These changes were further related to the oxidative activity of daily PM samples by assessing their capacity to drive the oxidation of physiologically important lung antioxidants including ascorbate, glutathione and urate (oxidative potential, OP). Twenty-four hour ambient PM samples were collected at the Marylebone Road sampling site in Central London over a three week period, including two major festivals celebrated with pyrotechnic events: Guy Fawkes Night and Diwali. Pyrotechnic combustion events were characterized by increased gas phase pollutants levels (NO(x) and SO(2)), elevated PM mass concentrations, and trace metal concentrations (specifically Sr, Mg, K, Ba, and Pb). Relationships between NO(x), benzene, and PM(10) were used to apportion firework and traffic source fractions. A positive significant relationship was found between PM oxidative burden and individual trace metals associated with each of these apportioned source fractions. The level of exposure to each source fraction was significantly associated with the total OP. The firework contribution to PM total OP, on a unit mass basis, was greater than that associated with traffic sources: a 1 μg elevation in firework and traffic PM fraction concentration was associated with a 6.5 ± 1.5 OP(T) μg(-1) and 5.2 ± 1.4 OP(T) μg(-1) increase, respectively. In the case of glutathione depletion, firework particulate OP (3.5 ± 0.8 OP(GSH) μg(-1)) considerably exceeded that due to traffic particles (2.2 ± 0.8 OP(GSH) μg(-1)). Therefore, in light of the elevated PM concentrations caused by firework activity and the increased oxidative activity of this PM source, there is value in examining if firework derived PM is related to acute respiratory outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Explosive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Metals / analysis
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Particulate Matter / toxicity


  • Air Pollutants
  • Explosive Agents
  • Metals
  • Particulate Matter
  • Nitric Oxide