Dr. Avnish Jolly, Chandigarh :The conflict between competing interests in society – safety and health on the one hand, and tradition on the other hand, has evolved over time, and the health effects are receiving greater attention. A combination of political will and public support to limit health and environmental hazards, and at the same time maintain memorable traditions, is needed to restore Deepawali.
Kindly go through this article before celebrating coming Deepawali and understand few health related facts and major developments around the country on legal side.
The fact on health and other hazards from the firecrackers during the festival season lets ponder.
To study the chemical composition, particularly of metallic and non-metallic components of crackers, Toxics Link got some samples of sparklers ("phuljari" in Hindi and "mathappu" in Tamil) and pots ("anar" in Hindi and "pusvanam" in Tamil) analysed at the Bombay Natural History Society Laboratory, Mumbai. The following were the chief findings of the laboratory tests.
1. The results showed presence of highly toxic heavy metals like cadmium and lead in addition to other metals like copper, manganese, zinc, sodium, magnesium and potassium in the fire-crackers.
2. Both nitrates and nitrites of few of these metals were present. Both these radicals are oxidising agents that are a ready source of oxygen in the process of combustion.
3. Oxides of sulphur in the form of sulphate and phosphorous in the form of phosphate were present in the samples. The mean levels of cadmium in the crackers analysed were 5.2 mg/100g. Anar and wire showed 6 and 8mg/100g, respectively.
4. The mean level of lead was 462 mg/100g with a maximum in green sparkle showing 850mg/100g. Magnesium was found in huge quantities when compared to other metals like copper, manganese and zinc. The mean levels of magnesium was 2622mg/100g and of copper was 744mg/100g. Zinc was the least among the various metals detected with a mean level of 324mg/100g.
5. Four acidic radicals –nitrate, nitrite, phosphate and sulphate– were also detected. The proportion of nitrite, phosphate and sulphate in the crackers was almost similar and ranged between 1160 to 1420 mg/100gm, while nitrates which are strong oxidising agents, were found in considerable amounts when compared to the other three. Their mean levels were 1624mg/100g.
6. Among these, oxides of sulphur, phosphorous and nitrogen are very corrosive and highly acidic while carbon monoxide, one of the oxides of carbon is an extremely poisonous gas whose presence cannot be detected by our sensory system as it is odorless.
7. Carbon monoxide combines more than 200 times as readily as oxygen, so that low concentration levels have adverse health effects.
8. The level of suspended particles in the air increases alarmingly during Diwali, causing eye, throat and nose problems. Although most of us do not feel the immediate impact, these problems can later develop into serious health hazards, according to Dr Rajesh Chawla of Apollo hospital, New Delhi.
9. Suspended particulate matter (SPM) exposure to the level of 100 ppm results in headache and reduced mental acuity. The effects are more pronounced in people with heart, lung or central nervous system diseases. Sulphur dioxide is readily soluble and dissolves in the larger airways of the respiratory system. This stimulates a contraction at 2 to 5 parts per million (ppm). At higher concentrations severe contraction restricts the breathing process.
10. Nitrogen dioxide is less soluble and so penetrates to the smaller airways and into the lungs. They destroy the linings of the respiratory surface, thereby reducing the intake of oxygen for the body. These cause respiratory allergies like asthma especially to the susceptible population.
11. Causes throat and chest congestion, and are likely to aggravate problems for those already suffering from coughs, colds and allergies.
12. High decibel level results in restlessness, anger, fidgetiness, impulsive behaviour and over-reaction to situations. Most crackers used have more than 80 dB noise that can cause temporary hearing loss, says K K Agarwal, chairman, Health Care Foundation, New Delhi
13. Scientific data to suggests that noise pollution can cause leads to hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attack and sleep disturbances. Normal decibel level for humans is 60 dB. An increase by 10 decibels means double the noise volume and intensity, says Agarwal.
14. Children, pregnant women and those suffering from respiratory problems suffer the most due to excessive noise. It results in making them hyperactive or withdrawn, says Dr Jitendra Nagpal, psychiatrist, Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (VIMHAS), Delhi.
15. Allergic bronchitis, acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, ephysema, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), allergic rhinitis, laryngitis, ssinusitis, pneumonia and common cold increase durinf this times, reports Dr Naarendra B Rawal, consultant chest physician and pulmonologist. The number of his patients doubles during Diwali. The firework is one of the provoking factors for childhood bronchial asthma, he adds.
Decision is ours on this Deepawali, let us start campaign to celebrate this festival without lightning the crackers.