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German environmentalists urge fireworks ban in urban areas

July 30, 2019

The ban on fireworks would affect cities like Berlin, Munich and Cologne, and would be implemented to protect residents' health. Germany's Environmental Action NGO will begin actively lobbying cities next month.

Fireworks light up the sky in Stuttgart
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Schmidt

Environmental Action Germany (DUH) has called for a New Year's Eve ban on fireworks in major cities. The large amount of smoke generated by private firework use during celebrations is harmful to city residents' health, the environmentalists said.

The NGO noted that within a few hours after midnight, fireworks release 5,000 tons of particulate matter or fine dust into the air. That represents roughly 16% of the particulate matter amount emitted by traffic annually, said Jürgen Resch, DUH state managing director.

"Each year on New Years' Eve fireworks create thick clouds over our cities,” Resch said. This forces hundreds of thousands of residents with respiratory problems to either leave ahead of time or "seal themselves in their homes.”

After warning about the health hazards of fireworks last year, encouraging residents to abstain from buying them, the DUH will now petition cities directly to ban the popular explosives.

Some 31 cities are targeted for the ban, including Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart and Hannover.

The NGO pointed out that already nearly all cities in industrialized nations have banned private firework use. Currently, the World Health Organization has set a standard of 20 micrograms of fine dust per cubic meter annually, while the EU has set the figure at 40 micrograms.

Firework use pushes German cities to exceed this number, DUH said. "We don't want to be a buzzkill. People should continue to be able to enjoy New Year's Eve fireworks," Resch said. But citizens should find alternatives to private fireworks, such as publicly-organized displays, or set off private fireworks outside the city, Resch stressed.

In August, the DUH will begin lobbying German cities, but some have already taken action, though mainly for safety reasons, rather than health.

Berlin and Munich are set to impose restrictions on fireworks use over New Year's Eve. A spokesman for Berlin's state government told the EPD news agency that some no-firework zones will likely be established in the city. 

Online fireworks

jcg/rt (dpa, EPD)

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