Though the number of fireworks permits dropped, smoke on New Year's Eve increased in four areas in Hawaii this year compared with the same day last year.
New Years fireworks
sully isle air
By Rosemarie Bernardo and Leila Fujimori
Three Oahu stations and one Maui station recorded a higher rate of micrograms of airborne particulates per cubic meter this year than last year, according to data provided by the state Department of Health. But none of the five Hawaii stations exceeded state and national health standards.
Stations in Honolulu, Kapolei, Liliha and Paia showed a higher number of particulates with Lili-ha registering the highest average at 116 over 24 hours. But at 1 a.m. New Year's Day, the Lili-ha station peaked at 1,111 micrograms of airborne particulates per cubic meter. The smoke later diminished.
The state and federal safety standard is 150 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter over a 24-hour period.
Deputy Health Director Gary Gill said several reasons could have contributed to the increased level of particulates this year: wind, weather and firework events in the areas.
"Although we may have fewer licensed (for firework permits), there could be more firecrackers; those tend to be closer to the ground," Gill said, explaining the air monitoring stations are closer to the ground level. "This year, there were fewer aerials than last year."
John Hunter, program director of the American Lung Association of Hawaii, said that despite the improvement in air quality at certain spots at specific times, he said it was still "pretty awful for anyone with asthma or any lung disease of any kind."
He also pointed out that the air at six metering points may be quite different from nearby locations due to wind conditions. "These are only six measuring points."
Although Hunter pointed to problems with the air quality measurements, he did not want to see the program done away with.
"It shows a pretty good picture," he said. "It's just rough."
This New Year's Eve, the association issued masks and respirators, and worked with the Hawaii Prince Hotel, which provided a discount rate for respiratory-ailment sufferers who wanted the protection of an air-conditioned room.
The state's permit law, which went into effect in 2000, seems to have curbed fireworks use, he said, but added that "permits don't stop people from using fireworks."
For the second year in a row, the Kihei station on Maui recorded a low level of particulates at 18 micrograms over a 24-hour period.
Last year, the Pearl City station exceeded the safety standard, recording an average of 164.2 micrograms of airborne particulates per cubic meter of air. The figure dropped to 100 micrograms, the second-highest level in Hawaii recorded this year.