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Worries about fine dust pollution: Man from Cologne wants fireworks at New Year to be banned

Worries about fine dust pollution : Man from Cologne wants fireworks at New Year to be banned

Bonn and Cologne are preparing for driving bans to improve air quality, but New Year’s Eve fireworks are still allowed. This is something one man from Cologne disagrees with and he has complained to the city. No such complaints are known about in Bonn.

For many people, setting off fireworks in a private setting is an integral part of New Year’s Eve. But there are also opponents of fireworks, which not only cause discomfort to people but also to animals year after year. In times of driving bans due to too high dust pollution, the topic is gaining more relevance in cities such as Bonn and Cologne. In the cathedral city, one citizen has now submitted an application to the city’s complaints committee. He is demanding a ban on public fireworks for health reasons.

A look at data from previous New Year’s Eves, assessed by the Federal Environment Ministry, shows a clear increase in air pollution in both Cologne and Bonn. In several places throughout Germany, the permissible limit of 50 micrograms per cubic metre as a daily average is exceeded –however, this is allowed on 35 days in the calendar year. The Federal Environment Ministry talks about around 5000 tonnes of fine dust being released by Germans because of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. According to the Ministry, this is the equivalent of about 17 per cent of the amount of fine dust emitted annually by traffic. Minute particles of fine dust can irritate the respiratory tract and disrupt lung function in the long term, which is particularly dangerous for asthmatics.

How quickly the pollution in the air due to fine dust subsides again after the New Year depends mainly on the weather conditions. “A strong wind helps to disperse the pollutants quickly. In windless weather conditions with limited vertical air exchange, the pollutants remain in the air for many hours and accumulate in the lower atmospheric levels,” says the Environment Ministry.

Similar complaints to the current one in Cologne are not currently known about in Bonn. A look at the measurements for New Year’s Eves in previous years sometimes shows noticeable differences, but often there are only small changes. “The differences could be to do with the weather situation, wind direction or fireworks close to the measuring station,” said the city of Bonn’s Environment Office.

The city of Cologne’s complaints committee will decide on the citizen’s current application this coming Tuesday but it is very unlikely he will be successful. “The basis for setting off pyrotechnics at New Year is the Explosives Act. According to paragraph 23, section 2 of the First Regulation to the Explosives Act, fireworks may be set off on 31 December and 1 January by all persons who have reached the age of 18,” states the city’s draft resolution. Only the federal government has the power to legislate on the desired ban.

For all firework fans, this means evil spirits can again be banished loudly and colourfully this year. The cities of Bonn and Cologne cannot forbid fireworks on their own.”

(Original text: Laszlo Scheuch. Translation: kc)