With the festival of Diwali around the corner, some states and Union Territories have restricted or banned the purchase, sale, and use of firecrackers to keep a check on pollution levels. Meanwhile, some states have allowed the use of green crackers.
As this happens, pollution levels in the capital and across India began touching hazardous levels starting 15 October.
Why have green fireworks been allowed in some states? Which states have banned or restricted the use of firecrackers? And what are green fireworks?
Here's everything you need to know.
What are green firecrackers?
Green fireworks or green firecrackers are low-emission crackers that are bereft of harmful chemicals like sulphur nitrates, arsenic, magnesium, sodium, lead, and barium. They are made using alternative raw materials. Their chemcial composition also helps them produce less dust when they are burnt.
While both green crackers and traditional crackers cause pollution, the former is claimed to cause 30 percent less air pollution as compared to the latter.
"Green crackers reduce emissions substantially and absorb dust and don’t contain hazardous elements like barium nitrate. Toxic metals in traditional crackers are replaced with less hazardous compounds. According to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), green crackers are permitted only in cities and towns where air quality is moderate or poor,” Dr Ravindra Khaiwal, professor at PGIMER’s department of community medicine and School of Public Health, Chandigarh, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
Do green crackers cause less noise pollution?
Green crackers are said to cause less noise pollution. It is said that regular crackers emit about 160 decibels of sound, whereas green crackers have a sound level of 110-125 decibels. Noise above 85 decibels can damage hearing.
Which states have banned/restricted the usage of firecrackers?
The states that have restricted/banned the usage of firecrackers are:
Delhi: The Delhi government has passed an order banning the storage, usage and sale of all types of firecrackers in the national capital till 1 January 2023.
Punjab: The Punjab government has permitted a window of two hours- from 8pm to 10pm which will be open for bursting firecrackers on Diwali, 24 October.
Haryana: The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) has banned the manufacture, sale and use of all kinds of firecrackers, excluding green crackers, immediately.
West Bengal: The West Bengal government has allowed only green fireworks during the Kali Puja on 24 October.
Tamil Nadu: The Tamil Nadu government has allowed bursting crackers for two hours on Diwali. People can burst crackers between 6-7 am and between 7-8 pm.
What are the effects of air pollution?
Air pollution shortens average life expectancy in India, the second most polluted country in the world after Bangladesh, by five years, relative to what it would be if the new stringent WHO norms were met, according to a new Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) analysis released earlier this year.
In fact, pollution would cut the life expectancy of 40 percent of Indians who live in the Indo-Gangetic plains by 7.6 years, said the report released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
According to AQLI in the Indo-Gangetic plains of India, 510 million residents, nearly 40 percent of India’s population, are on track to lose 7. 6 years of life expectancy on average if current pollution levels persist. In Delhi's case, people would lose 10 years of their lives in a business-as-usual scenario of not adhering to the new WHO standards.
What are the different types of green crackers?
India has three different types of green crackers:
SWAS – Safe Water Releaser: These kind of crackers release water vapour in the air which will suppress the dust released. It's said that these crackers reduce the particulate dust by approximately 30 percent. These crackers are bereft of potassium nitrate and sulphur.
STAR – Safe Thermite Cracker: These do not contain potassium nitrate and sulphur and emit less particulate matter compared to their conventional counterparts. They also have a reduced sound intensity.
SAFAL – Safe Minimal Aluminium: These crackers have a minimum usage of aluminum and are far less noisy than traditional crackers.
What effects do traditional crackers have on health?
Firecrackers release several toxic metals that can be detrimental to health. The white color emitted from crackers contains aluminium, magnesium, and titanium, while the orange colour contains carbon or iron. The yellow agents contain sodium compounds while blue and red are copper compounds and strontium carbonates. The green agent is barium monochloride salts or barium nitrate or barium chlorate.
According to Dr Khaiwal, lead in crackers has an impact on the nervous system, while copper can trigger respiratory tract irritation. Meanwhile, sodium can cause skin issues, and magnesium can lead to metal fume fever.
Cadmium not only causes anemia but also damages the kidney, while nitrate is the most harmful that causes mental impairment. The presence of nitrite causes irritation in mucous membrane, eyes and skin.