As the festive season approaches, many people are looking forward to celebrating with firecrackers. However, these seemingly harmless devices can have serious consequences for our health and environment. Here are some of the harmful effects of firecrackers that you should be aware of:
Firecrackers release toxic air pollutants like carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide, trioxygen and black carbon and particulates leading to production of dense clouds of smoke. This affects eyes, throat, lungs, heart and skin. According to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, the air quality index (AQI) in Delhi reached a hazardous level of 999 on Diwali night in 2022, which is 16 times higher than the safe limit of 60. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes about 7 million premature deaths every year worldwide.
There is no doubt that loud bursting noises of firecrackers lead to noise pollution. This might not affect youngsters as much, but it becomes a nightmare for our elders and young kids. Both groups are known to have sensitive hearing and get affected by these loud noises. Apart from the discomfort, there have been actual cases where people are known to have lost their hearing because of the noise made by firecrackers too. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reported that the noise levels in Delhi during Diwali 2022 exceeded the permissible limit of 55 decibels (dB) in residential areas by up to 30 dB. The WHO recommends that the maximum noise exposure should not exceed 70 dB for 24 hours.
The air pollutants released by firecrackers precipitate the underlying chronic respiratory diseases like COPD, ILD thereby increasing the hospitalization rates and medications use. The toxic gasses released can cause severe Reactive Airway Dysfunction (RADS) in absolutely previously healthy people. RADS is a type of asthma that occurs after exposure to high concentrations of irritants. A study by the Chest Research Foundation in Pune found that the lung function of healthy individuals decreased by 10% after Diwali 2022, while the lung function of asthmatic patients decreased by 40%.
As shocking as it might sound, firecrackers can be a possible cause of some cancers too. When firecrackers are made, radioactive and toxic substances are added to create colors on their burst. These substances raise people’s chance of developing cancer when they contaminate the air. Some of the carcinogenic substances found in firecrackers are lead, cadmium, chromium, manganese, zinc, sodium, potassium, copper, magnesium, aluminium, barium, strontium, lithium, antimony, arsenic, mercury, and beryllium. A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found that the incidence of lung cancer in Delhi increased by 33% from 2008 to 2018, and attributed it partly to the exposure to firecracker smoke.
Apart from the stress, fear and anxiety caused to the animals by these sudden and loud bursting of firecrackers, they also happen to experience some extreme reactions to the chemicals in these crackers. Studies have shown that chemicals released in the air by firecrackers lead the animals and birds to feel a burning sensation which even causes some injuries. The animals also suffer from hearing loss, respiratory problems, cardiac arrest, and trauma. Many animals run away from their homes or shelters in panic and get lost or injured on the roads. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), more than 100 animals died due to firecracker injuries in India during Diwali 2022.
Firecrackers may seem like a fun way to celebrate, but they have a devastating impact on our health and environment. They also cause immense suffering to the animals and birds. Therefore, we should avoid using firecrackers and opt for eco-friendly alternatives like candles, lamps, and flowers. We should also spread awareness about the harmful effects of firecrackers and encourage others to join us in making this festive season a safe and happy one for everyone.