Italian cities ban New Year's Eve fireworks because of smog

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2015 9:38 AM

MILAN (AP) — Smog is helping to put a damper on New Year's Eve celebrations throughout Italy, as Rome, Milan and other cities ban fireworks to avoid aggravating already high levels of air pollution.

Dozens of towns and cities have canceled fireworks displays and banned setting off firecrackers and other personal pyrotechnics, citing the poor air quality and also to protect animals from becoming agitated by the noise. The bans also take into account public safety, as hundreds of people are injured each year setting off celebratory fireworks.

The mayor of Bari, in the south, has urged citizens to help police the ban, asking for smart phone video of anyone setting off explosions.

Authorities, meanwhile, have seized tons of illegal fireworks in separate actions throughout the country, including 300 kilograms of explosive powder in Caserta, near Naples, with a value of 400,000 euros ($435,000).

Rome and Milan are among the cities that have put restrictions on driving in recent days as levels of pollutions have exceeded legal limits, posing a threat to public health. Government officials have drafted new measures to combat the rising pollution levels, exacerbated by a lack of rain and wind, including lowering thermostats and speed limits.

Milan officials estimate that the annual fireworks frenzy emits 44 tons of harmful particles.

Pyrotechnic professionals, however, said their products pass EU environmental and acoustic norms and that the ban damages their business.

"The pollution solution does not depend on us," said Antonio Fiotta, the owner of a fireworks shop in Milan. "It depends on other causes, which fall outside of our business."

Fireworks are being permitted in Florence, the Adriatic coastal city of Rimini and Naples, which has a particularly strong fireworks tradition featuring explosions of rockets, firecrackers and otherdevices so unrelenting that residents habitually leave windows open to avoid breakage.

Elsewhere, the makers of sparkling wine are hoping the sensorial void will be filled with the popping of corks. The Italian Wine Union, whose members account for half of all industry revenues, estimates that 56 million bottles of Italian-made sparkling wine will be opened for the holiday.

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Brian Hendrie contributed to this report.