An inconvenient truth about Bonfire Night pollution

Pollutionwatch Substances released during Guy Fawkes celebrations are often the very pollutants that industry goes to great lengths to filter out

Guy Fawkes is often the most polluted evening of the year. Smoke from bonfires and fireworks can build up in our towns and cities. This smoke contains a unique mixture of metal particles that are used to propel and colour fireworks. These include red (strontium or lithium), blue (copper) and bright green and white (barium).

Lead, titanium and antimony produce crackles and sparkles, and potassium, aluminium and toxic organic compounds are used as rocket propellants. Ironically, these are many of the same pollutants that industry goes to great lengths to filter from the chimneys of waste incinerators and factories.

Last weekend, a steady wind dispersed the pollution quickly, avoiding the problems seen in 2014 when pollution in the West Midlands, Merseyside, Manchester and Yorkshire reached the top level of 10 on the UK air pollution index. This year, the maximum was measured in Swansea, which reached index level four. Even in Lewes, East Sussex, where Guy Fawkes is celebrated with great zeal, air pollution remained low this year.

It is unclear if Guy Fawkes pollution is mainly caused by fireworks or bonfires, or if they are both to blame. New Year and Diwali are celebrated with fireworks only, and do not normally lead to widespread pollution in the UK. However, this year Diwali triggered the start of a severe smog episode in Delhi that has extended into November.

In Scandinavia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and parts of the Netherlands, Easter is marked by mass bonfire events but no fireworks. During 2014, smoke from these fires spread over a wide area including northern France.

Source: An inconvenient truth about Bonfire Night pollution | Life and style | The Guardian

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