Hyderabad: Within nine seconds of lighting a snake tablet, a child inhales over 64,500 micrograms of particulate matter of size 2.5. This has been revealed in a study recently conducted by the Chest Research Centre on the impact of six popular fireworks on health and air quality.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the limit for the amount of particulate matter that can be inhaled by humans safely is 60 mcg/m3. A single snake tablet emits nearly 1000 times more than this amount. Children are most vulnerable to the burning of fireworks. Since most fireworks are burnt on the ground, children are most likely to inhale the polluted air.
The fireworks included in the study were snake tablets, anaar (flower pots), pulpul, sparklers, chakri (floor spinners) and ladi bomb (chain cracker), which are among the most popular fireworks for Diwali. Special machines with light-scattering photometers were used to count the number of particles released upon lighting each of the fireworks, at ground level, and about three feet away. The readings of the photometers were than used to calculate the mass of particulate matter released per cubic metre.
The snake tablet was found to be the most polluting, followed by the ladi bomb which emitted 38,540 mcg/m3 of particulate matter. It took six minutes for this particulate matter to dissipate. The anaar was found to be the least polluting of the fireworks tested. However, the researchers say that the firework’s elevated height of impact may have prevented the machines from recording an accurate reading.
The results of this study indicate that a single firework can have a significant impact on the environment. Sneha Limaye, the head of the Clinical Trials Division at the Chest Research Centre, says, “This study shows us what we inhale. At present, the authorities measure particulate matter at heights greater than the average human height, where readings are lower because the wind blows matter away faster, without any obstructions. However, when fireworks are burnt, we directly inhale the pollutants.”
In Hyderabad, pollution levels have been known to peak after Diwali every year. “They emit 500,000 times the permissible limit of pollutants, which can make anyone sick,” adds Ms Limaye.
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