Health problems loom after Diwali in the country’s capital. Here’s what you could do

Residents burn crackers during 2016 Diwali celebrations in New Delhi. Photo: Ajay Aggarwal/ Hindustan Times

By Yatamanyu Narain

New Delhi: While Delhi is grappling with the acute problem of poor air quality, the residents will not be shying away from bursting fire crackers to celebrate Diwali. This will not only accentuate the rampant air pollution but would impact people health-wise for the next few days.

The experts believe that despite the awareness and warnings every year, cases related to health only keeps on rising post Diwali for three-four days. The firecrackers consists of charcoal that emits air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter into the atmosphere when set on fire. This makes it extremely excruciating for the individuals suffering from asthma, lung diseases or those allergic to chemicals.

According to Dr Vijay Hadda, associate professor of Pulmonary Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the type of pollution that arises from firecrackers is different from that of particles like PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the air. However, the cracker pollution will add to the particulate matter.

The apex court has laid down certain guidelines to mitigate this aftermath. From partially banning fireworks to setting the time limit on bursting of crackers, the court has issued guidelines on almost every aspect of the festival. There will be no legal sale of crackers in the Delhi-NCR region because no licences have been issued to retailers as no products comply with the rules laid down by the top court. In a first, a father in Delhi has been arrested for bursting crackers.

The Supreme Court has also ordered that only “low-polluting” ‘green firecrackers’ that are within the permitted decibel limits be allowed to be sold. The court has completely banned the manufacture, sale and use of so-called joined firecrackers such as ‘ladis’.

Despite all these checks, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. People with pre-existing conditions like asthma and bronchitis should remain indoors at all cost and they must limit their exposure to smoke as far as possible. They are also advised not to rely on masks made out of plain cotton or wool. The only mask that can reduce the intake of harmful particles is N95.

N95 masks have a protection factor of 5, which means that they can filter out all but 5% of harmful particles from the air. This effectiveness is lesser for particles which are smaller than 0.3 microns. N95 masks does not remove harmful gases from the air, but combined with additional features such as activated charcoal, the exposure to harmful gases is reduced significantly.

Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB) might also use cloud seeding to induce artificial rainfall to wash away any harmful pollutants on the eve of Diwali.