Learn how the City of Boston engages local researchers, community residents, and city officials to combat illegal firework activity.

For the attention of: City planners, city officials, residents, community and public health committees.

The problem: Concerned residents reached out to a local research group (Community Noise Lab) and city officials to complain of the significant mental and physical health impacts of incessant firework activity during Covid-19’s stay-at-home advisory. 

What we did and why: Community residents, city officials, and academic researchers come together to measure and problem solve incessant illegal firework activity in the City of Boston. We used a research app called ‘NoiseScore’ together with sound level meters, noise complaint calls, and census data to measure sound levels. These data allowed us to also be able to describe its impacts on community noise perception; map who is most vulnerable to such noise; and used these data to form the first ever Firework Task Force in the city of Boston.  

What our study adds: We explain the process of how a group of academic researchers, city officials, and concerned residents can come together to measure, report, and create a fireworks taskforce.

Implications for city policy and practice: This experience is informative for cities and/or community residents who need to organize around an environmental issue and create a tangible, effective solutions.

For further information:

Community Noise Lab:  Community Noise Lab is currently located at the Brown University School of Public Health. The lab’s primary aim is to holistically explore the relationship between community noise and health by working directly with communities to support their specific noise issues using real-time monitoring and exposure modelling. Our smartphone app, NoiseScore, which allows users to objectively measure and subjectively describe noise events in their community.

City of Boston – Fireworks Safety Guide: Sound levels from incessant use of fireworks are unreasonably loud. The City of Boston states that unreasonable sound levels are anything louder than 50 decibels from 11pm to 7am, or anything louder than 70 dB at anytime.

Full research article: Firework activity and environmental sound levels: community impacts and solutions by Erica D. Walker, Nina F. Lee, Koen F. Tieskens, Jonathan Jay, Lorrie J. Walker, Marisa Luse, Roudnie Celestin, Jerome Smith, Julia Mejia & Jonathan I. Levy.