BEIJING, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Although firecrackers are a significant part of China's biggest annual holiday, air pollution concerns have led some to call for limitations on their usage.
Record levels of smog that have shrouded north China in recent weeks have led policymakers to work on pollution solutions. However, their ideas are aimed more at cutting vehicle emissions and cleaning up heavily polluting factories, leaving netizens to make their own suggestions regarding the use of smoky firecrackers.
Firecrackers are often set off during holidays, especially the annual Spring Festival, to create a jubilant atmosphere and ward off evil spirits, according to Chinese mythology.
However, the festive fireworks also result in dense clouds of smoke that have been the subject of complaints for many years.
According to figures released by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, PM 2.5 readings exceeded 200 micrograms per cubic meter during last year's Spring Festival, largely due to firecrackers.
Readings of PM 2.5, or airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, can be used to determine air quality. A reading of 200 micrograms per cubic meter means serious pollution.
On Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, nearly 40,000 posts over the last 24 hours have discussed reducing the use of fireworks during the Spring Festival, which begins on Feb. 10 this year.
Some 2,000 bloggers said on Weibo that they will set off fewer firecrackers this year for the sake of air quality.
"Xiaojiudeyeye," a native of the city of Qingdao in east China's Shandong province, said he hopes the city will issue a ban on firecrackers during the seven-day holiday.
In an online poll conducted by the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), nearly 70 percent of respondents said they will not set off any fireworks.
However, others have argued that an arbitrary ban on the Spring Festival tradition will dilute the holiday atmosphere.
"Paradise1212" said China needs to shut down factories that pollute the air instead of restraining cultural customs.
Gao Wei, a folklore expert, said he also opposes an overall ban on firecrackers. However, he also advocated the use of "electronic firecrackers," such as devices that can project lasers into the sky to mimic the effects of genuine fireworks.
The smog created by the fireworks is not the only complaint they generate. Fires and injuries caused by poorly-made fireworks are a common source of gripes.
Beijing started regulating fireworks in 1987, adjusting related policies from time to time since then. During last year's Spring Festival, the city banned firecrackers in 64,000 areas and created a schedule to determine when fireworks would be allowed to be set off.
Municipal regulators in Beijing said recently that Beijingers have bought fewer firecrackers in recent years, adding that manufacturers have also started creating "cleaner" fireworks with updated technology.