Festival fireworks and firecrackers have been a source of severe air pollution around China, making them the major culprit for the spike in bad air quality during the Spring Festival holidays, the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced.
From Spring Festival Eve last Friday to early Saturday morning, 105 cities were reported to be "severely polluted" due to the festive explosives, among which 62 cities briefly recorded an air quality index of over 500, according to statistics released by the ministry.
Among the major 338 cities monitored, average PM2.5 density spiked from 62 micrograms to 213 micrograms due to smoke and other debris from fireworks.
Most big cities in China ban fireworks, lifting it only during the Lunar New Year. However, this year saw more cities impose stricter firework regulations - such as allotted times an places - in a bid to curb air pollution. The measures have paid off, official data shows.
Compared with Beijing, which recorded a PM2.5 density at midnight Friday 8.7 times higher than just six hours earlier, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, which banned fireworks altogether this year, saw PM2.5 density drop by 90 percent, 78 percent and 77 percent respectively compared with the same period averaged over the last few years.
The environment ministry also revealed that during the holidays, steel factories in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province continued production, and some heating plants in Hebei Province were found to be illegally emitting excessive amounts of pollutants.
The ministry called on the public to refrain from setting off large amounts of fireworks in order to reduce air pollution and fireworks-inflicted injuries and other hazards.
Fireworks have further lost favor among locals in recent years, even during festivals. A poll released by a research center in Beijing before the festival showed that only some 15.7 percent of respondents said they would set off fireworks, a decrease of 7.3 percentage points from last year. More than 80 percent of residents said they would not set off fireworks, among whom 43.3 percent cited "air pollution" as the reason.