Source: Xinhua | 2013-1-31 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
A traffic policewoman directs vehicles at a crossing in downtown Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, yesterday. As another bout of polluting haze ensnared China's north and eastern areas, the public have urged authorities to allow traffic police to wear masks.
ALTHOUGH firecrackers are a significant part of China's biggest annual holiday, the Spring Festival, air pollution concerns have led some to call for limits on their use.
Record levels of smog that have shrouded north China in recent weeks have led policy-makers 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 to cut down on use of firecrackers.
Firecrackers are set off during the Spring Festival to create a jubilant atmosphere and ward off evil spirits, as per Chinese mythology. However, they also cause a dense cloud of smoke that has been the subject of complaints for many years.
According to figures released by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center, PM2.5 readings exceeded 200 micrograms per cubic meter during last year's Spring Festival, largely due to firecrackers.
Readings of PM2.5, or airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, is used to determine air quality. A reading of 200 micrograms per cubic meter means serious pollution.
On Sina Weibo, about 40,000 posts yesterday discussed ways to restrict the use of fireworks during the Spring Festival, which begins from February 10 this year.
Some 2,000 bloggers have said that they will set off fewer firecrackers this year because of smog concerns.
"Xiaojiudeyeye," a native of Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province, said he hopes the city will ban 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, 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. Another advocated the use of "electronic firecrackers" that can create laser images in the sky similar to fireworks.