17 Oct 2019
The Dark Side of the Colourful Crackers
- Outdoor air pollution is one of the major causes of disease and death globally with an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths associated with it

Who doesn’t like the colourful and outstanding patterns in the sky that make our heart swell with happiness when the fireworks are performing up and above? The use of these crackers is a symbol of joy, happiness, and celebration. 

Image source: Zee News

From festivals to weddings, to New Year firecrackers have been an important part. However, these firecrackers that give momentary happiness also bring with them long term consequences that we have to pay a heavy price for. 

Endless toxic effects of firecrackers

From noise pollution to air pollution, the toxic effects of firecrackers are endless. The capital city of India, Delhi is already facing the brunt of air pollution. Throughout India the air is already in the severe category because of the pollution from traffic, smoke released by industrial chimneys, the burning of agricultural waste and firecrackers are acting as fuel to the already existing problems.

Outdoor air pollution or ambient air pollution is one of the major causes of disease and death globally. Pollutants like particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide in the air are of major concern. These pollutants can cause simple problems like respiratory irritation, breathing difficulties to major problems like premature death even among healthy individuals. 

Image source: Financial Express

The actual risk of adverse effects depends on the individual’s immunity, current health, and physiological status, the type of pollutant, its concentration and length of exposure. 

4.2 million premature deaths due to air pollution

Particulate matter that is of less than 10 and 2.5 microns in diameter that are also present in the crackers is the leading cause of lung cancer as these particles can penetrate deep into the airway passages, the lungs and finally entering the bloodstream. 

Globally, an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths are associated with outdoor air pollution mainly due to stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infection in children.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for:

  • 43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • 29% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer
  • 25% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease (IHD)
  • 24% of all deaths from stroke and
  • 17% of all deaths and disease from an acute lower respiratory infection

The individuals who are at increased risk of severe health problems due to air pollution are: 

  • Immunocompromised individuals and individuals with an existing medical condition like cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, cancer, diabetes, AIDS, etc. 
  • Individuals undergoing long term medical treatment.
  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults and the elderly

There are a number of immediate health problems which one can face due to polluted air:

Image source: oxy air systems
  • Increased fatigue, headache, dry throat and nausea. Irritation in the eyes and nose.
  • Shortness of breath and tightness in the chest along with repeated dry cough, sore throat that may lead to a secondary infection.
  • Weakened athletic performance
  • Increase susceptibility to respiratory infections
  • Aggravated heart diseases, ischemic heart diseases, cardiovascular problems and respiratory ailments
  • Increased stress to the heart and lungs increasing the load on the organs to supply more oxygen to the body
  • Damage to the respiratory cells

Meanwhile, long term exposure to polluted air can cause:

  • Accelerated ageing of the lungs
  • Loss of lung capacity
  • A decrease in lung function
  • Development of diseases like Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema, COPD, Lung cancer
  • Irregular heartbeat, non- fatal heart attacks
  • Shortened life span
  • Premature death

Maternal exposure to air pollutants can have hazardous effects on the mother and the foetus:

Image source: science direct
  • Premature foetal death
  • Low birth weight.
  • Premature birth
  • Small gestational age births
  • Congenital problems and disorders

Fireworks do symbolize happiness and festivity but in these times, when our country, the earth, and the climate are suffering because of global warming they can add an increased amount of burden to the environment. 

The joy we experience for just one day or one night by watching the fireworks can lead to grave and fatal issues. It is up to each one of us to take this as personal responsibility and stop using firecrackers. We all have the right to clean air and lest not destroy it with our own hands.

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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