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Like bursting crackers on Diwali? Know the extent to which they pollute air

SC banned sale of firecrackers across NCR ahead of Diwali over concerns of growing air pollution in what is now the world's 11th most polluted city, according to WHO

Swagata Yadavar | IndiaSpend 

Diwali firecrackers ban
Representative image. (Photo: Shutterstock)

While a decision to ban the sale–not the use–of for the 2017 season is proving contentious, the generated by popular ranges between hundreds and thousands of times above safe levels. Popular firecrackers, such as fuljhadis (sparklers), snake tablet, anar (flower-pot), pul pul (string sparkler), or laad (strings of 1,000 crackers) and chakri (spinning firecracker) emit particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in levels 200 to 2,000 times the safety limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), IndiaSpend reported on October 29, 2016. The ban generated opposition, as this tweet from writer Chetan Bhagat illustrated.

Some saw it an issue of religious freedom, as this tweet from Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy indicated.

(First Dahi handi and now firecrackers, maybe next time the ‘candle marching’ and ‘awards wapsi’ gang will cite the excuse of and file a petition against lighting of pyre by Hindus.)

Some ridiculed the narrative to make it about preserving religious customs, as this tweet from Abhijeet showed.

Others, such as Puducherry lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi welcomed the ban.

The ban was pronounced on October 8, 2017, across the national capital region ahead of Diwali (until October 31, 2017) over concerns of growing air pollution in what is now the world’s 11th-most polluted city, according to the India has set a 24-hour mean standard of 60 µg/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre) for PM 2.5, while the WHO has a lower standard of 25 µg/m³. PM 2.5 are 30 times finer than human hair; they accumulate in human organs and blood stream, increasing the risk of sickness and death. “The extremely high levels of generated during the burning of causes worsening of asthma, of the eyes and nose, respiratory tract infections, pneumonias and heart attacks,” said Sundeep Salvi, director of the Chest Research Foundation of India, an independent research institute. Children with weak immune and respiratory responses are especially vulnerable. “Children, in particular, burn the fuljhadi, the pul-pul and the snake tablet barely a foot or two away from them, and in doing so, (they) inhale a large number of smoke that reach deep into their lung,” Sneha Limaye, senior scientist at the Chest Research Foundation of India, told IndiaSpend. In assessing the caused by firecrackers, this 2016 study by the Chest Research Foundation of India, and students from the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences of the University of Pune measured particulate matter emitted by each firecracker from the distance they are usually lit; for example, the sparklers at a foot from the user. The snake tablet produced the highest levels of PM 2.5, followed by the ladi, pulpul, fuljhadi, and anar. Although the snake tablet burned only for nine seconds, it produced the highest peak PM 2.5 level of 64,500 µg/m3–2,560 times above standards–while the produced peak PM 2.5 levels of 38,540 µg/m3, 1,541 times over standards.

From Popular Firecrackers: Duration & Peaks

Pollution From Popular Firecrackers

Source: Study by the Chest Research Foundation, Pune, and students from the Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences of the University of Pune

(Yadavar is a principal correspondent with IndiaSpend.) Reprinted with permission from, a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit organisation. You can read the original article here.

First Published: Wed, October 11 2017. 11:09 IST