Dhe neighbors and colleagues are of the same opinion: it was assumed after the turn of the year that there had never been as many fireworks as this year. However, current data from the State Environment Agency seems to contradict this widespread assumption: At several measuring points in the region, no higher fine dust pollution was measured than in the years before the crisis.
If you look at the values that were registered at the measuring station at Friedberger Warte in Frankfurt, for example, it looks as if fewer fireworks were shot into the air on New Year’s Eve than at the turn of the year 2019/2020 before the pandemic. On January 1, 2020, around 900 micrograms per cubic meter of air were measured in the first 30 minutes after midnight, which was one of the highest levels of particulate matter pollution in recent years. This year the value at New Year was just under 600 micrograms. That is still twelve times as much as the EU limit of 50 micrograms, which may only be exceeded on 35 days a year – but significantly less than on New Year’s mornings in 2015, 2016 and 2019.
The minutes after midnight
The readings also show that the banging continues to be concentrated in the minutes after midnight. So it doesn’t start much earlier or last longer.
The values of the fine dust concentration are not only derived from the number of firecrackers, rockets and cannon fires shot into the sky and thus into the air. The State Environment Agency points out that the general weather on New Year’s Eve “usually plays a major role” in the resulting readings. It is therefore not possible, according to experts in the state authority, to determine whether there was more or less gunfire this year than in the pre-Corona years, based on the fine dust values alone.
A look at the weather shows that there were big differences between the two New Year’s Eves: For example, on New Year’s Eve 2019/20, i.e. at the last turn of the year before the pandemic, there was a so-called poor weather situation. There was hardly any wind, but the main factor at the time was that the temperatures in the higher air layers were significantly higher than in the cities. The air, with its fine dust pollution, could therefore neither rise nor disperse.
On the other hand, last Saturday was completely different. It was comparatively windy and there were no layers of warmer air to prevent exchange. A largely clear sky ensured that the pollutants shot into the air by the rockets and firecrackers were able to spread quickly and the concentration of fine dust decreased relatively quickly. Already in the early morning, values were reached again, as they had prevailed on the normal days before New Year’s Eve.
How badly fireworks pollute the air had been shown by the two previous turn of the year, when firecracker sales and large celebrations were restricted and partly banned due to the corona pandemic. On Friedberger Landstraße, for example, only 31 micrograms of fine dust per cubic meter were measured in the first 30 minutes after midnight on January 1, 2022 – a fraction of the normal value on New Year’s Eve and less than the limit of 50 micrograms. At many other measuring stations in Hesse, this limit was also well below this limit on New Year’s Eve 2020 and 2021.
Increased risk of heart attack and type 2 diabetes
According to the Leopoldina, the National Academy of Sciences, particulate matter can pollute the airways, trigger inflammation there and also increase the risk of heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. According to studies, mortality increases by seven percent over years of exposure. The smaller the particles are, the deeper they can penetrate into the body. As a rule, particles of ten micrograms (0.01 milligrams) are referred to as fine dust. It is caused by abrasion, for example from car tires, in printers or by combustion, for example in fireworks.
However, the New Year’s Eve banging only contributes a very small part to the general stress, since the particles usually evaporate quickly in the course of the morning. According to the Federal Environment Agency, the fireworks at the turn of the year are only responsible for one percent of particulate matter emissions. The main causes are heating systems, road traffic and agriculture. Due to the EU limit values that have been in force since 2005 and the introduction of fine dust filters, general pollution has been significantly reduced.