The Day after Diwali

Photo by yanivg

It’s the day after Diwali. Last night a huge number of people all across the city celebrated the festival by lighting up firecrackers. This morning the sweepers have swept away the remains of those crackers, and well, we think that’s the end of the story. But no, unfortunately our episode with the fireworks doesn’t end that easily. Firecrackers leave behind an after-cloud of toxic substances that are harmful in various ways.

So today let’s take a look at the harmful substances that linger on in the atmosphere, long after the colourful fireworks display has died down.

Fireworks consist of gunpowder and some ‘unique’ chemical substances that give them their colour and effect. Some of these substances include cadmium, barium, dioxins, strontium and perchlorates, apart from other chemicals. If you think that use of fireworks doesn’t really cause much harm, let me tell you what these ‘unique’ chemicals alone are capable of doing.

Cadmium: It is widely used in fireworks without any restriction. But this is one of the 6 substances that are banned by the European Union’s Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) because of its life-threatening nature. Cadmium is a well-known environmental hazard and also carcinogen (cancer causing agent). I do not know why the Indian government has not imposed a similar ban on the use of this substance as of yet?

Barium: It is used in fireworks to bring in a greenish colour when it is combusted. Once combusted, the fumes that come out of barium-induced fireworks are known to accumulate in your lungs and cause Baritosis (symptoms like cough, wheezing, and nasal irritation among others). Barium also affects our nervous system and may cause cardiac problems, weakness and paralysis!

Dioxins: They are highly toxic substances and they are well-known environmental pollutants. Besides, they are also known to cause damage to the growth and immune system of young children. And yes, they are carcinogens too.

Strontium: It is a radioactive substance and it’s known to cause skeletal diseases that include bone cancer. It is a big threat to children as it interferes with their bone growth.

Perchlorates: They are the substances that help in the combustion of fireworks. They are known to damage the thyroid gland, causing diseases like hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. They hinder growth of the body and so they affect infants, children and pregnant women the most.

These are just some of the problems that fireworks cause. Obviously then, fireworks don’t make our celebration a happy one! 

Aristo Mendis 


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