Health

Germans fed up of New Years Eve fireworks free-for-all

BERLIN — Urban do-it-yourself firework displays across Germany at the turn of the year could soon fizzle out because of politicians and green groups.

On New Years Eve, Germans let loose with firecrackers and rockets when the clock strikes midnight. For many, its a beloved tradition — but a growing debate about its risks has prompted some to reconsider.

Safety is a major concern: Last years revelries ended with the Berlin Accident Hospital treating 50 people for fireworks-related injuries, with half of them involving severe burns, and in the past there have been deaths caused by fireworks. The night is also a risk for emergency workers, with Berlins authorities last year reporting 49 attacks on its staff.

On top of the injury risk, the spectacle also has adverse effects on pets and wildlife, and sends air pollution surging. Plus, cleaning the streets is a major headache after rampant revelers spend the night blasting fireworks into inner-city skies.

All that has led a majority of Germans to support some sort of restriction. A 2018 YouGov survey found 61 percent wanted firecrackers to be banned in city centers, and 60 percent said only official organized firework displays should be permitted in major cities. Only 43 percent backed a total ban, however.

“On New Years Eve, the permitted daily limit for fine dust is exceeded by more than 40 times” — Arne Jeschal, Berlin Greens spokesman

Another survey this month found 64 percent of young people supported an inner-city ban — up from 54 percent the previous year.

In April, the Greens in Berlin — currently polling in second place nationwide — settled on a policy of moving to ban the sale of pyrotechnics to individuals through Germanys upper house legislature.

Currently, the more harmless types of fireworks — such as sparklers — can be bought year-round, but the flashier gear used for New Years Eve, such as rockets, can only be bought in the final three days of the year. Despite the limited window and bans on some louder bangers, the national Association of the Pyrotechnic Industry says the annual market is worth €137 million.

While fireworks are banned near hospitals and some other buildings in Germany, authorities in Berlin have also drawn up additional no-go zones this year, including around the bustling Alexanderplatz.

The area around Colognes landmark cathedral is off limits to fireworks | Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Other cities have started banning fireworks outright in certain areas, for example in Munichs old town and in front of Colognes cathedral.

Some major retail chains are also taking action. Hornbach, a DIY chain, has said it will stop selling fireworks from next year, while the Bauhaus chain has pledged to review its range. Local supermarket chains such as Edeka and Rewe are also having a rethink, with a handful of Edeka shops announcing they would not sell any this year.

Surging pollution

The pollution created by fireworks has added to the debate.

“On New Years Eve, the permitted daily limit for fine dust is exceeded by more than 40 times,” said Arne Jeschal, a spokesman for the Berlin chapter of the Greens. He reckons that 191 tons of waste from fireworks are generated each year in Berlin, with dyes and chemicals seeping into groundwater, posing a separate environmental hazard.

According to Germanys Federal Environment Agency, fireworks blast 4,200 tons of particulate matter into the air within just a few hours — about 2 percent of the annual amount of particulate matter released in the country.

Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a green group usually focused on banning diesel cars from polluted inner cities, escalated a campaign earlier this year to tighten the rules around firework sales, citing the issue of particulate matter.

Kai Falk, a managing director from the German Retail Federation, said that bans were “not the right way” of dealing with the issue.

However, the fireworks lobby disputes the statistical evidence, arguing that its wares only make up a minuscule fraction of the particulate matter output nationwide and that the effect cleRead More – Source