Beijing residents are being asked to cut down on fireworks during the first three days of the Lunar New Year celebrations, with the environmental monitoring authority warning the capital city is likely to suffer from severe air pollution during the first half of the week-long holiday. With rising humidity and weak winds forecast for tomorrow, Lunar New Year's Eve, the authority fears that firework displays will significantly worsen pollution if the public light up too many. "The pollutants could stay in the air for a rather long period of time, as weather conditions will be unfavourable for them to disperse," the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Monitoring Centre said yesterday. Air pollution could remain heavy until Sunday evening, when strong winds are forecast to return to Beijing and blow away the pollutants, the monitoring centre said. It is traditional for many Chinese to set off fireworks at midnight to ring in the Lunar New Year. Levels of PM2.5, the tiny air pollutants that can lodge in people's lungs, reached 900 micrograms per cubic metre in eastern Beijing for Lunar New Year's Eve last year. Such a level is more than 30 times the safe limit recommended by the World Health Organisation. Firework orders at Beijing retailers are down 20 per cent this year after the municipal government decided to cut the sales period from 20 days to 11 and reduce retail outlets due to the pollution concerns, state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Authorities approved 942 firework retail outlets this year, down more than 100 from last year. Sales of environmentally friendly fireworks - the same as those used during the Beijing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting - are also on the rise, according to Xinhua. Beijing missed a key pollution reduction target last year to cut annual PM2.5 concentrations by 5 per cent, and vowed more stringent efforts and fiscal support to curb air pollution this year.