Chinese New Year 2015
China cracked down on fireworks before the start of Chinese New Year. Reuters

Skies across China lit up last night as the nation rang in the Lunar New Year. When Beijing skies quieted as celebrations wound down, a blanket of smog remained. Real-time air quality data from Beijing showed the almost immediate impact that the city’s fireworks had on the environment, with levels of PM2.5, a common airborne pollutant, skyrocketing after midnight.

In an effort to curb pollution, China’s government announced restrictive measures on fireworks in order to reduce the amounts of airborne pollutants during new year celebrations. China’s Ministry of Public Security announced that fireworks were banned in 138 cities, while another 536 cities received new restrictions on setting off fireworks.

Chinese set off fireworks and firecrackers to scare away evil spirits from the past year and to start the new year with a clean slate, and they continue to set off fireworks through the 15-day holiday. A survey on microblogging site Weibo showed that 60 percent of respondents were willing to give up the long-standing fireworks tradition to help fight air pollution. The other 40 percent, however, insisted on celebrating the new year with fireworks, even if it meant worse air quality.

It's not surprising that the fireworks restriction led to a dip in sales across China. Beijing reduced its fireworks order from around 500,000 cases to 315,000. Factories also produced less fireworks, which may be due to the economic slowdown in China.

Pollution is a tremendous concern for China and there has been a renewed effort to improve air quality across the country and in cities like Beijing. The Beijing Olympic task force is looking to reduce air pollution in its attempt to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Before the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China created a system that limited the number of vehicles on the road.

Chinese New Year 2015 Fireworks
In an effort to curb air pollution, officials in China placed restrictions on firework sales. Reuters
Chinese New Year Fireworks
Fireworks sales were down in China. Reuters