New Year’s Air Quality Improves on Eve of Fireworks Ban

January 4, 2011, 11:18 AM HST · Updated January 4, 12:55 PM
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By Wendy Osher

Hawaii’s air quality during the New Year’s fireworks festivities improved from last year, despite an increase in the amount of smoke in the air.  The State Department of Health says the actual particulate levels in the air were lower than last year.  The difference is being attributed to the light trade winds that Oahu experienced during the evening hours.

New Year's Eve Fireworks on Maui. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Particulate levels were monitored at four Oahu locations (in Honolulu, Pearl City, Sand Island and Kapolei) and at one location on Maui in Kihei. The results were compared with national ambient air quality standard of PM2.5 or 35 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter over 24 hours. The levels began to increase at around 9 p.m., peaked after midnight, and continued to improve, returning to normal by 4 a.m.

The Pearl City monitoring station exceeded the national standard with a 40 µg/m3 reading on December 31, 2010 and a 36 µg/m3 reading on January 1, 2011. That’s better than last year’s readings of 62 µg/m3 at Honolulu, and 45 µg/m3 at Pearl City.

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High levels of particulates in the air can penetrate into the lungs and aggravate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Officials on Oahu were preparing for increased fireworks activity on the eve of a fireworks ban that went into effect for Honolulu on January 2nd, one day after the New Year’s Holiday. The new Honolulu law bans the use paperless and novelty fireworks, but allows residents to buy $25 permits for the purchase of up to 5,000 firecrackers. The Honolulu law does not apply to Maui.

Air Quality Comparison Chart. Click to enlarge image. Courtesy State of Hawaii.

Last year, Governor Linda Lingle passed a law that allows individual counties to enact ordinances that are more stringent than what the state already has in place. Here on Maui, novelty items and paperless firecrackers are still permissible.

Health officials say the air quality is greatly influenced by weather conditions, the amount of fireworks burned in an area, and the configuration of the landscape.

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