Bonfire Night Sheffield: Clean air campaigner calls for bonfire night to be banned over deadly pollution

A clean air campaigner has called for bonfire night to be banned to save the planet and prevent hundreds of deaths in Sheffield.

By David Walsh
Friday, 5th November 2021, 10:11 am

Graham Turnbull wants the tradition stopped - including the sale of fireworks - because it is ‘hands down’ the worst night of the year for pollution.

It pumps huge amounts of smoke into the atmosphere, as well as chemicals that give fireworks their colour, he says.

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Mr Turnbull, founder of Clean Air for Sheffield, runs a network of 50 air quality sensors on homes and schools in Sheffiled

Mr Turnbull, founder of Clean Air for Sheffield, runs a network of 50 air quality sensors on homes and schools in Sheffield and can see the impact in real time.

He said: “I think we shouldn’t celebrate bonfire night at all. I know that sounds extreme but we should just stop burning because of the climate emergency and a health emergency. Poor air kills 500 people in Sheffield every year.

“Burning has had its day - we wouldn’t accept contamination of our water supply in the same way.”

He spoke out as world leaders hammer out ways to save the planet at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

Bonfire night last year

Sheffield has breached air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide since they were introduced in 2005, mostly at the station and in Burngreave, Mr Turnbull added.

But the World Health Organisation had just reduced limits, putting the city in breach for NO2 and particles ‘everywhere’.


The sensors are green on a clear air day but turn purple on bonfire night 'hands down' the worst of the year for pollution, Mr Turnbull says.

Many people were unaware they were causing pollution including owners of wood burners, allotment holders and businesses burning rubbish, said Mr Turnbull.

He added: “I live in Nether Edge, which you wouldn’t think of as a polluted place but it is as bad as anywhere in Sheffield.

“The ‘granola belt’ in Meersbrook is even worse. But often these things go together. People eat well and ride a bike to work – but come home and light a log burner.

“How it came to be thought of as something environmental is a mystery.”

Allotment holders are banned from burning for five months in summer. The ban, imposed by Sheffield City Council, shows there is a problem - but it should be made all year, he added.

Nevertheless he is optimistic.

He added: “The message is getting out. I meet people all the time who say they don’t use their wood burner anymore. But I’m impatient for change.”

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