BEIJING, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Air pollution concerns have prompted Beijing authorities to ask residents to set off fewer fireworks during the upcoming Spring Festival.
"To improve the air quality and create a favorable environment for you and your family members, please set off fewer fireworks or no fireworks, in order to reduce emissions of pollutants," an official with the Beijing Office on Fireworks and Firecrackers said Friday.
The official said the office has closely followed Beijing's air quality reports and issued the proposal to citizens via media.
Setting off firecrackers and fireworks during the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 10 this year, is an old tradition. To reduce accidents and the impact on citizens' lives, Beijing restricts fireworks within certain areas during a 16-day period around the Spring Festival.
Three fireworks retailers in Beijing have 750,000 cartons of fireworks in stock for this year's festival, down from 810,000 cartons in 2012. The number of shops approved to sell fireworks in Beijing has been reduced from 1,429 to 1,337, the official told Xinhua.
After an hours-long firework-ignition spree on the eve of the Lunar New Year in 2012, the density of PM2.5 increased sharply to hit 1,593 micrograms per cubic meter at the Chegongzhuang monitoring station, located downtown, or 1.5 times higher than the most polluted day so far this year in Beijing.
The prolonged smog that shrouded many parts of north and east China in January sparked debate over fireworks during the Spring Festival.
On Friday, the capital's air quality index was above 110, or Level III, indicating slight pollution in the downtown area, after rain and wind on Thursday dispersed the smog. The forecast for air quality over the weekend is positive.
From Jan. 1 to 28, Beijing had 23 smoggy days, about 10 more than the same period over the past 10 years and the most since 1954, said Liang Xudong, head of the Beijing Urban Meteorology Institute.
The average density of PM2.5 in January was 180 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, about 30 percent higher than the same period in the years from 2009 to 2011, according to meteorological monitoring data.