Improvements in air quality during start of new year

Air quality in the hour leading into and after New Year’s Day at the Kihei monitoring station showed marked improvement over last year, the state Department of Health reported.

Fireworks smoke consists primarily of fine particulate matter, which can penetrate the lungs and aggravate existing respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, the Health Department said in a news release Friday. The national standard for allowable particulate substances of this type is 35 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over 24 hours.

Last year’s celebrations averaged 14 micrograms on Dec. 31 and 12 micrograms on Jan. 1 at the Kihei station at Hale Piilani Park. For this year’s festivities, the station only averaged 5.2 micrograms on Dec. 31 and 6.9 micrograms on Jan. 1.

The Paia station, which began recording data last year, averaged 5.2 micrograms on Dec. 31 and 8.2 micrograms on Jan. 1.

The highest level in the state was recorded in Pearl City, Oahu, at 16 micrograms.

The use of fireworks always will affect air quality but factors such as wind, rain, the amount of fireworks burned and the configuration of the land will ultimately determine the total impact on air quality, the Health Department said.

Legal fireworks were permitted in the county from 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 1 a.m. New Year’s Day.

From Dec. 31 to Jan. 2, the department’s Injury Prevention program reported a total of 33 injuries treated in emergency rooms throughout the state – the second lowest total in the past 14 years. There were 40 injuries in the previous New Year’s period.

“The reduced number of injuries is particularly apparent among children” under age 18, the Health Department said. Data were collected from 22 emergency departments statewide, in addition to the Hana and Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Centers.