Diwali, India’s biggest festival of the year is ~ two weeks away, and just like every year, people are getting ready for celebrating with friends and family. However, every Diwali also brings clouds of toxic smoke and dust in the form of firecrackers that people across the country burn on Diwali night.
Here is what happened in India last year:
What has research shown?
Studies have been conducted in many cities across India including Delhi (Sati and Mohan, 2014 , Mandal et al., 2012 , Tiwari et a., 2012 , Sarkar et al., 2010), Hisar (Ravindra et al., 2003), Lucknow (Barman et al., 2008), Kolkata (Chatterjee et al., 2013), Jaipur (Prakash et al., 2013), Rajnandgaon (Ambade and Ghosh, 2013), Agra (Pachauri et al., 2013), Rajim (Nirmalkar et al., 2013), Hyderabad (Yerramsetti et al., 2013) and Nagpur (Rao et al., 2012). Everyone seems to agree that air pollution levels increase significantly on Diwali, and a majority of this increase is due to firecrackers.
Here is what some of the scientists concluded:
“Overall, we conclude that the festival of Diwali adds significantly to the existing pollution problem in Delhi, albeit for a short period of time.” (Sarkar et al., 2010) Link to Paper
Why is it so bad?
Research has shown that concentrations of toxic metals (e.g. copper, barium, zinc, strontium, increase several fold due to combustion of firecrackers (Moreno et al., 2013) and exposure to these metals is associated with severe health effects (Chen and Lippmann, 2009 , Godri et al., 2010).
“There is clearly emerging evidence that the inhalation of some metals in ambient air PM is associated with adverse health effects at concentrations near or not much higher than current ambient levels.” (Chen and Lippmann, 2009)
Exposure to very high particulate matter (particles in the air) and gases (nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide) can cause skin irritation, a sensation of burning eyes and respiratory illnesses in the short-term, and last year, this was reported in the weeks following Diwali:
High concentrations of particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) can also impair visibility, and we saw evidence of that in Delhi.
” The Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport Met office attributed the low visibility to pollutants released in the air following burning of crackers in Diwali.”