Fireworks are a staple of America’s Independence Day celebrations. It is estimated that 16,000 fireworks displays are held in the United States each year and American consumers will spend more than $1 billion in firework sales to mark the holiday! Beyond a big bang and bright lights, how do these fireworks affect the environmental world around them? LECO’s world headquarters are located in Saint Joseph, Michigan, a beach town on Lake Michigan where fireworks are a prominent backdrop to the 4th of July celebration. Last summer, our applications lab thought it would be a worthwhile and interesting experiment to test the water surrounding the firework launch spot to explore if there were any short-term environmental impacts. The influx of tourists to the Lake Michigan beaches during the holiday is sure to contribute chemicals from personal care products (sunscreen and insect repellent) to the water as well. Evaluating these potential contaminants surrounding the July 4th holiday was the objective of this study.
The analysis was conducted by taking water samples from three different places along the shoreline; the fireworks launch location off the pier, as well as two local beaches close to the launch site. This was done on July 2nd as well as on July 4th (an hour after the fireworks show) to provide an accurate measurement. LECO’s Pegasus HRT+ 4D system was used to analyze the water samples, which offers comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled to high-resolution time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-HRTOFMS). GCxGC-HRTOFMS proved a powerful tool for exploration as it provided a full non-targeted analysis of the water samples before and after the fireworks show, clearly demonstrating the chemical differences between the two. GCxGC-HRTOFMS was also able to pinpoint contributions to the environmental pollution that occurred as a result of these pyrotechnic displays and the increased human traffic near the water sampling sites.