For many, Deepavali means bursting of firecrackers. The vivid images that spring up at the mention of the festival of lights is that of family get-togethers and bursting of crackers. But how many realise that pollution levels rise significantly each year after this indulgence?
Each year 26 per cent healthy people develop symptoms of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness especially during and after Diwali, city based pulmonologist, Dr. Sham Sunder Raj said.
According to a study done by Chest Research Foundation, Pune, bursting crackers increases the level of harmful Sulphur Dioxide by 200 times above the safety levels that are prescribed by the WHO. And that is only 10 per cent of all pollutants that are released by crackers.
Dr. Raj explained that apart from Sulphur Dioxide, bursting of crackers also releases other dangerous gases and chemicals like Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Manganese and even Cadmium. Cadmium in particular worsens the condition of people with respiratory problems like Asthma, Bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases among many others, he said. “The gases that are released during Deepavali take at least four months to dissipate and one can succumb to respiratory problems during these four months,” he said. Every year there is an increase of about 30 to 40 per cent in the number of asthma cases, he said.
“There is an urgent need for people to understand the harmful effects of bursting fire crackers. Though we cannot stop people from celebrating the festival, for the sake of their own and other's health it is imperative that people burst lesser amounts of crackers,” he said. Just like people stopped using harmful colours and Plaster of Paris idols during the Ganesh Chaturthi festivals, there is a need for bringing in awareness about damage done by crackers, Dr. Raj contended.
Dr. Raj spoke at a function organised to launch a website - www.breathefree.com. The website is a public service initiative by drug manufacturer Cipla and contains full information about respiratory problems caused by pollution.
The website is multilingual and offers information in seven Indian languages.