ROME Authorities have told Italians to snuff out their ardor for New Year's Eve fireworks in a bid to limit air pollution that has caused traffic bans or restrictions in several cities.
Rockets, firecrackers and flares are banned from public spaces in Milan, Bologna and Turin after a nationwide build-up of micro particles in the atmosphere during an unusually dry winter.
The mayor of Reggio Calabria in Italy's southwestern toe extended a ban on pyrotechnics until Jan. 7, saying they were not only pollutants but could injure humans and distress animals.
Fireworks cause "a dizzying rise in micro particles of substances harmful to health, such as strontium, barium, copper, aluminum, titanium and iron," Mayor Giuseppe Falcomata said.
Authorities in the southern city of Naples, where people often celebrate holidays, birthdays and weddings with fireworks, have launched a campaign to promote less flammable revelry.
A cartoon on the local government's website shows a crowd gathered near the city's medieval Castel Nuovo, with the motto: "Celebrate with cheer and in company, without fireworks."
After traffic curbs in numerous cities in recent days failed to reduce pollution levels, the government met with city and regional authorities to come up with other ideas.
Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti said the government would provide 12 million euros ($13 million) to fund reductions in public transport fares and published a "protocol" of suggestions to mayors for periods of high pollution.
These included a 2 degree Celsius reduction in the heating of public buildings, a 20 kph speed limit in urban areas and incentives for people to trade in older cars to buy new, less polluting ones.
Galletti said mayors could decide whether to implement the non-binding protocol, and the smog crisis was mainly due to exceptional weather conditions, with an absence of wind and "one of the longest dry spells the country has ever experienced".
Wind and rain are forecast over much of Italy from Jan. 2.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie and Gavin Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence)