Did the fireworks ban on New Year’s Eve 2020/2021 have an impact on air quality?

Did the fireworks ban in The Netherlands on New Year’s Eve 2020/2021 have an impact on air quality?

We are in the middle of January 2021 and New Year’s Eve is again a few days behind us. Time to look at the impact of the fireworks ban on New Year’s Eve 2020/2021 on air quality.

The Netherlands is in the middle of the 2nd COVID-19 lockdown, during which a ban on fireworks on New Year’s Eve has been imposed by the government.

The firework ban was declared to stop the emergency services having to deal with firework injuries on top of coronavirus and to prevent more coronavirus outbreaks. To achieve the goal, the sale of fireworks was banned. Only small fireworks for children were still allowed to be sold.

First of all: the fireworks ban was largely ignored. Once again, rockets and firecrackers were set off, but from existing stocks from the previous year. In addition, far fewer fireworks were set off before and during the day of New Year’s Eve than in previous years.

Good news is: Based on figures from both hospital emergency departments and family doctors, some 400 people were treated for fireworks related injuries on the night compared to 1,300 the previous year.

But what about the air quality?

As in the previous year, we set up a fine dust sensor to monitor air quality at Keizer Karelpark Oost in the centre of Amstelveen, the Netherlands, to measure local air quality (Figure 1).

We installed the monitor on 2020-12-31 at 15:30 on a balcony overlooking a street. The measurements were stopped again on 2020-01-01 at 12:00.

Besides temperature and humidity, PM2.5 and PM10 were measured.

Why particulate matter is so harmful to us can, among others, be read in this blog entry.

Measurement location in relation to amsterdam and schiphol
Figure 1: Measurement location in relation to Amsterdam and Schiphol

Measurement results:

In the course of the afternoon, PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations rose continuously from 10 μg/m³ and 20 μg/m³, first moderately, then more strongly after 18:00, to reach the first peak of 320 μg/m³ and 521 μg/m³ PM2.5 and PM10, respectively, shortly after midnight around 00:30. In the following hour, the levels dropped again to below 100 μg/m³ and 200 μg/m³, respectively. Around 03:00 a broad peak of up to 174 μg/m³ and 400 μg/m³ PM2.5 and PM10 occurred. Afterwards, the concentrations decreased steadily. Around 10:30 a.m., the concentrations of particulate matter were below the levels at the beginning of the measurement, and at the end of the measurement at 12:00 p.m., they were at excellent levels of 3 μg/m³ and 6 μg/m³ PM2.5 and PM10 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: PM concentrations during New Year’s Eve celebrations 2020/2021

Figure 3 shows the hourly mean concentrations (bars), as well as the mean values for PM2.5 and PM10 over the entire measurement period (dashed lines), which are 51 μg/m³ and 115 μg/m³, respectively.

For PM2.5, the mean value is thus twice as high as the daily mean value of 25 μg/m³ recommended by the WHO. For PM10, the mean value is 2.3 times higher than the daily mean value of 50 μg/m³ recommended by the WHO.

Figure 3: Hourly PM2.5 and PM10 levels during New Year’s Eve celebrations 2020 / 2021

As mentioned, we measured PM2.5 concentrations at the same location on New Year’s Eve 2019/2020. Figure 4 shows a temporal comparison of the two measurements.

Figure 4: Comparison – PM2.5 concentrations during New Year’s Eve celebrations 2019/2020 and 2020/2021

What is particularly striking is the almost identical course of the curves. The most obvious difference is the absence of the peak around 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 2020/2021. However, as in the January 2020 article, the increase in concentration at that time shows fireworks activities on the street, directly below the measuring station. This year, however, no fireworks were fired in the immediate vicinity.

A little surprising are the concentrations at midnight and at 03:00, which are only slightly below the concentrations at the previous change of year, or in some isolated times even slightly above! This year, the concentrations at 03:00 a.m. fell more sharply than last year. We see the reason for this in the heavy fog and calm on New Year’s Eve 2019/2020. These weather conditions meant that the concentrations could not spread quickly and remained in one place for a long period.

Figure 5 shows a comparison of the hourly means of the PM2.5 concentrations (bars) and the mean value over the entire measurement periods (dashed lines). In 2019/2020 the mean value was 84 μg/m³ , in 2020/2021 51 μg/m³.

Figure 5: Comparison – Hourly PM2.5 levels during New Year’s Eve celebrations 2019 / 2020 and 2020 / 2021

Compared to the turn of the year 2019/2020, a PM 2.5 reduction of 40% can be observed this year.

However, if we were to consider only the period from 3:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., since the PM reduction after the 2nd peak was hampered by the weather conditions on New Year’s Eve 19/20, we would arrive at mean values of 80 μg/m³ (2019/2020), as well as 61 μg/m³ (2020/2021), we would only arrive at a reduction in particulate matter concentration of just under 25%!

As a result, we can say that the fireworks ban this year had much less influence on the fine dust concentrations than we had assumed, and was only 25% compared to the previous year.

The citizens of Amstelveen seem to have stored enough fireworks over the year so that only 25-40% less particulate matter was produced at the changing of the year.

Do you need indoor or ambient dust measurements or a complete indoor air quality assessment? Don’t hesitate to contact us!

E-mail: info@aristoteles-consulting.com

Phone: +31 (0)85 200 7150