Simply put: How firecrackers work, impact your health

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Pollution Control Board, Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), Yanshui Festival, Guy Fawkes Night

Mains level: Air pollution and various aspects related to it


News

Context

  1. Citing toxins in the air, Supreme Court has banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR this Diwali
  2. In November 2016, as a great smog enveloped Delhi for days after Diwali, the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) told the Supreme Court that the capital’s terrible air quality had been “compounded” by the burning of firecrackers

Document available for impact of fireworks

  1. The only official document on the ‘known health impact’ of fireworks is a compilation of findings of surveys, put together by Central Pollution Control Board
  2. This was also done after the court ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, to study the harmful effects of firecrackers following the EPCA’s submission
  3. The CPCB did not carry out the detailed study that the Supreme Court asked for
  4. Why? It said the competence lay with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), the explosives regulator under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Existing guidelines

  1. The CPCB affidavit refers to four types of explosive firecrackers — atom bombs, Chinese crackers, garland crackers and maroons — for which guidelines exist
  2. According to these guidelines, the sulphur content must not exceed 20%, nitrates 57%, and aluminium powder contents, 24%
  3. The guidelines were silent on heavy metals such as cobalt, copper and magnesium, extremely toxic compounds of which are widely used as colouring or regulating agents
  4. In July 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that “no firecrackers manufactured by the respondents shall contain antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead”

How firecrackers impact health

  1. Studies in Europe, Canada and China have found links between increases in the concentration of fireworks, and variations in air quality
  2. Most of these studies have focused on festivals such as the Yanshui Festival in Taiwan, Montreal International Fireworks competition, Lantern Festival in Beijing, Guy Fawkes Night in the UK, etc
  3. According to 2014 study, ‘Potential Impact of Fireworks on Respiratory Health’, in Lung India, “Adults exposed to high levels of ambient air pollution have shown increased prevalence of chronic cough, phlegm, and breathlessness and are, therefore, at an increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergic rhinitis, lower respiratory tract infections, and lung cancers.”
  4. A 2007 study, ‘Recreational Atmospheric Pollution Episodes: Inhalable Metalliferous Particles from Firework Displays’, had found that children were susceptible in particular since their defenses against particulate matter and other gaseous air pollutants were weaker

Back2Basics

Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO)

  1. The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) formerly Department of Explosives, Nagpur is the nodal Organization to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum
  2. This Organisation comes under, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Government of India
  3. As a statutory authority, PESO is entrusted with the responsibilities under the Explosives Act, 1884; Petroleum Act, 1934; Inflammable Substances Act, 1952, Environment (Protection Act), 1986

Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA)

  1. It is a Central Government constituted committee for the National Capital Region in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated January 7, 199893
  2. It was constituted under subsection (1) and (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 by MoEFCC
  3. This authority was constituted with sole objective of assisting SC for protecting and improving the quality of environment and preventing, controlling and abating air pollution in Delhi NCR
Air Pollution
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