Annual air pollution caused by the Hungry Ghost Festival†
Burning of joss paper and incense is still a very common traditional custom in countries with a majority Chinese population. The Hungry Ghost Festival which is celebrated in the 7 month of the Chinese calendar is one of the events where joss paper and incense are burned as offerings. This study investigates the impact of the Ghost Month Festival (open burning event) on air quality by analysis of the chemical composition of particulate matter (PM) and rainwater samples collected during this event, compared with data collected throughout the year, as well as bottom ash samples from burning the original joss paper and incense. The results showed that the change in the chemical composition of the rainwater and PM2.5 (PM ≤ 2.5 μm) atmospheric samples could be correlated directly with burning events during this festival, with many elements increasing between 18% and 60% during August and September compared to the yearly mean concentrations. The order of percentage increase in elemental composition (in rain water and PM2.5) during the Hungry Ghost Festival is as follows: Zn > Ca > K > Mg > Fe > Al > Na ∼ Mn ∼ Ti ∼ V > Cu > As > Ni > Co > Cd > Cr > Pb. The chemical composition of the original source materials (joss paper and incense for combustion) and their associated bottom ash were analysed to explain the impact of burning on air quality.