A study of the fallout from a New Year display in Austria shows for the first time that the fireworks can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma because they shoot out harmful aerosols. Fallen snow before and after a display in the village of Saalbach was analysed. The researchers found "huge amounts of barium" in the snow.
Fireworks over Marina Bay on 31 Dec 08: Photo Straits Times
Considering that 250,000 people watched the fireworks in Singapore last night, and that the fireworks were over the Marina Bay, our latest freshwater reservoir, I wonder if the environmental impact had been considered?
250,000 revellers usher in 2009 at Marina Bay
Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia 1 Jan 09;
SINGAPORE: Over a quarter million people ushered in the New Year at Singapore's new downtown Marina Bay.
There was high energy to reflect the troubled times, but there were also quiet moments of peace and hope for 2009.
The specially-choreographed fireworks at Marina Bay took spectators' breath away.
"Fantastic fireworks, great show, all good," said a man in the crowd.
An Indian woman added: "It's definitely something different compared to New York, so it's great to be out here."
More than 10,000 spectators came to watch the very first full-length concert out on Marina Bay.
Revellers were entertained with 90 minutes of song and dance by local celebrities from Singapore's MediaCorp Channel 5, Asian Idol Hady Mirza and Filipino band 'River Maya'.
As much as many would say that 2008 has been a rough and unforgettable year, many more celebrating at Marina Bay would hope for 2009 to be a much better one. - CNA/de
Great fireworks, shame about the toxic fallout
Andy Coghlan, New Scientist 22 Dec 08;
WHEN those fireworks light up the sky on New Year's Eve, be careful not to breathe in too much smoke. A study of the fallout from a New Year display in Austria shows for the first time that the fireworks can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma because they shoot out harmful aerosols.
Georg Steinhauser and his colleagues at Vienna University of Technology analysed fallen snow before and after a display in the village of Saalbach. Fireworks often contain metal salts to give them colour, such as barium for green flashes and strontium for red. The researchers wanted to find out whether any traces remained, clinging to snowflakes. If they did, it would mean the particles were present in the smoke from the fireworks and could be breathed in by spectators.
"We found huge amounts of barium in the snow," says Steinhauser (Atmospheric Environment, DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2008.08.023). Concentrations were typically 500 times higher than in snow samples taken from the same sites before the display. Barium poisoning is known to constrict the airways, so inhaling it could aggravate asthma symptoms, says Steinhauser.
Fireworks have been linked to breathing difficulties before. A study during the Indian Diwali festival, of which firecrackers are a key part, showed that asthma cases rose by 12 per cent, and some spectators without asthma even had attacks of bronchitis.
The team are now developing fireworks that are free of both barium and perchlorate oxidant, which supplies the oxygen for the pyrotechnic combustion. Perchlorate can contaminate water supplies, impair thyroid function and harm fetuses.
In the meantime, Steinhauser says people can still watch displays - as long as they try not to inhale.