A greater number of people sought medical attention for respiratory illness this year than the year previous, and pollution from fireworks was comparable to Eyjafjallajökull. At the same time, few people admitted themselves to hospital with fireworks-related injuries.
The “healthy limit” for particles in the air is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3). New Year’s Eve saw pollution from fireworks – which contain such metals as lead, copper and HCB – reach 4,500µg/m3 in parts of Kópavogur, 2,500µg/m3 at Grensásvegur in Reykjavík and 1,700µg/m3 at the Reykjavík Zoo, Vísir reports.
For comparative purposes, air particle pollution in Reykjavík from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption was at about 2,000µg/m3. At the time of this eruption, people were advised to stay indoors with their windows closed.
Jón Magnús Kristjánsson, the chief emergency physician at Landspítali, told reporters that they had witnessed many more people admitting themselves to hospital with respiratory complaints than in the previous year.
Exacerbating matters was the lack of wind. Visibility went down 700 metres at midnight, and the blue haze of persistent air pollution was visible in many parts of the capital on New Year’s Day.
In more encouraging news, there were very few reported fireworks-related injuries this year. RÚV reports that only five people were admitted to hospital on New Year’s Eve due to such injuries, mostly due to minor burns. Greater injuries were reported instead from people who were intoxicated and slipped on icy sidewalks.