With Diwali just around the corner, the pollution debate is back. Does bursting of crackers increase pollution levels? How harmful are the chemicals added in them when inhaled? Did the Supreme Court order in 2018 to reduce bursting window to two hours have an impact on pollution levels? How does green crackers negate these issues? We take a look at the available data to find answers.
In 2016, the Chest Research Foundation of India, Pune conducted a series of experiments on firecrackers such as sparklers, ground spinners, flower pots, snake tablets, among others to determine the amount of PM 2.5 particles emitted by them PM 2.5 (particulate matter having a diameter of 2.5µm or less) is an air-pollutant which poses great health risks when inhaled. In India, the 24-hour mean limit of PM 2.5 is 60 µg/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre). The graph shows the results of the experiments. The pollution levels are plotted against the time of exposure of each cracker.
Emissions by cracker type
The crackers emitted extremely high PM 2.5 levels with the snake tablet producing a peak PM 2.5 level of 64,850 µµg/m³ – the highest of all
Effect on surroundings
The table below shows PM10 levels (particulate matter having a diameter of 10 μm or less which is another air pollutant) across various urban residential centres in Tamil Nadu. The first four columns list the 24-hr average PM10 levels a week before Diwali day and the next four list the 34-hour average PM10 levels on Diwali day. In India, the 24-hour mean limit of PM 10 is 100 µg/m³
Apart from causing particulate matter pollution, crackers contain several chemicals which produce different colours and effects. Here is a list of few chemicals, their use and their affect on humans
What are green crackers?
Green crackers have a small shell size compared to traditional crackers, are produced using less harmful raw materials and have additives which reduce emissions by suppressing dust. Their salient features according to CSIR-NEERI scientists are:
- They don’t contain banned chemicals such as lithium, arsenic, barium, lead, etc.
- They are called Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL) crackers. They release water vapour and don’t allow the dust particles to rise
- They are designed to reduce 30% particulate matter pollution.
- QR codes on green cracker packages will help consumers scan and identify counterfeits
Spike during Diwali
Observations from the table
- Pollution levels increased significantly on Diwali day across the State in the four years
- This difference was stark, particularly in Chennai, in 2017
- 2018 was an exception to this trend in Chennai. The State government, acting on the directions of the Supreme Court, had set a two-hour window for bursting crackers. However, such a drop was not observed in other parts of the State