For many, one of the biggest attractions during the Lunar New Year is the fireworks displays put on by governments, organisations, and companies. However, while fireworks are often breathtaking to witness, they have a big downside that isn’t often considered.
This downside is air pollution. While it’s easy to think fireworks may not have a big impact on local air quality, findings from 2022 in Beijing have proven the opposite true. Last year, fireworks were banned in the Chinese capital for the Beijing Olympics that were taking place at the time.
In 2021, an average concentration of 289 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre was recorded - a very high concentration regardless of the setting. However, in 2022, when fireworks were banned in the capital, the particle count only reached five micrograms per cubic metre.
This is the lowest recorded peak PM2.5 level during Lunar New Year's eve in Beijing since the government started recording air quality data nine years ago. While an improvement of five micrograms down from 289 might seem impressive, it’s even more telling compared to the 2016 and 2017 concentrations, which averaged over 600 micrograms per cubic metre.
Although this information points to fireworks as being significant contributors to air pollution, it’s important to strike a balance as not only do fireworks make for stunning visual spectacles, but without them, one of the biggest Lunar New Years traditions is lost.
So what should we do? Well, it's worth donning a mask during the evening of New Years eve or any other day of the year where fireworks are common. We can still enjoy fireworks, but we should do so responsibly!