Category: Oakland

Oakland, fireworks, air pollution and the 4th of July

Oakland is a great city. I’ve enjoyed living here for the past 7 years, and working for another 13 before that. The people, the arts, the culture, the food, it’s all wonderful. Except for the fireworks.

Each year as the 4th of July approaches, the fireworks start. Right around 9pm nightly, someone’s lighting them up, splashing the sky with colors and the air with sounds. Sitting on the roof of my house, I see fireworks 360 degrees. They’re beautiful to watch though after 6 hours, it’s all rather tiring. And the sounds become opressive. They’re constant and punctuated by ridiculously loud explosions.

There’s one aspect that I hadn’t considered before, air quality. I recently installed a PurpleAir module to monitor the air quality. The fires last fall wreched havoc on the air quality and being a geek, I wanted something in place to monitor the next fire season. It’s on the PurpleAir map. I pull the data from it to a local InfluxDB database and recently went exploring through the measurements. What I found was interesting.

PurpleAir PM10 Air Quality

The PM10 air quality reached 305 around 11:52PM on the 4th.


The PM2.5 air quality reached 81 around 12:12AM on the 5th.

The PM10 of 305 and PM2.5 of 81 are way, way higher than recommended maximums. Midnight is when the bulk of fireworks are ignited.

As a city, we need to do better for each other.

[Addendum 2020-07-25 16:44:55]

Another aspect that I want to cover for next year is sound levels. Adding a mechanism by which the decible level for general human and k9 hearing would go a fair way toward a better view into what happens with the fireworks.

I would appreciate any suggestions on sensors that would assist with this endeavour.