The sweet shops may not see much rush during Diwali in Kerala but the fireworks shops are doing roaring business.
Everybody knows that too many sweets and too much crackers are hazardous to health. But one should worry more about the latter because while sweets and their consequences remain a personal choice, the fireworks affect the health of not only an individual or community but of a habitat too -- a lesson the revelers conveniently forget.
Firecrackers cause air and noise pollution. Yet, year after year, the use of firecrackers during Diwali in Kerala seems to be on a steady rise, especially in the urban areas. And this is at a time when urban habitats are turning more fragile and vulnerable, thanks to the alarming rise in pollution.
Exposure to noise causes slow but incurable deafness, high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, restlessness, disturbed sleep and poor school performance in kids, say experts.
"The deafness caused by noise pollution is irreparable. It can't be fixed with a hearing aid as the nerves get damaged due to unbearable noise. Even an advanced and very high amplifier can't help you in case of such hearing impairment," says Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, who is a front-runner in the campaigns against noise pollution in Kerala.
He reminds us of the Puttingal temple fireworks tragedy in which many people lost hearing capability permanently.
Dr. John Panicker, national coordinator of Indian Medical Association's National Initiative for Safe Sound, explains about the dangers of firecrackers.
He said every Diwali season, doctors in Thiruvananthapuram encounter a number of cases of burns injuries, injuries to diaphragm and other issues caused by firecracker bursts.
“Firecracker bursts mostly affect kids, unborn children and elderly people. Any sound above 80 decibel is harmful to a normal human being. The noise goes above 150 decibel during pyrotechnics display during the festival season, though the permissible limit is 125,” Panicker said.
Asked how firecrackers used on residential premises affect people, Panicker said use of such crackers for over a period of time causes the same effects as a fireworks display.
“Firecrackers are made of elements such as potassium chlorate, aluminum, magnesium, cadmium, copper, sulphur etc. They also release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. These gases and elements stay in air for days and are dangerous for kids and asthmatic patients, especially. These materials also pollute water bodies nearby,” Panicker, an ENT specialist, said.
The IMA has launched a nationwide program to promote “Safe Diwali, Swachch Diwali and Swadeshi Diwali” to create public awareness about the dangers of firecrackers.
IMA held awareness programs in Thiruvananthapuram ad Kochi recently. The cracker bursts also affect animals. Pets are the worst-affected as the poor creatures go through immense stress and tension due to the noise. The high decibel, deafening noise and sparking light of crackers cause tremendous injuries to animals and birds, says Mumbai-based Plant and Animals Welfare Society.
In recent years, the country has been witnessing a number of campaigns against excessive use of firecrackers, which highlight the environmental and health hazards they cause to both humans and animals. And it's time we speak out loudly why we should prefer a silent yet illuminating Diwali; there is still time to rethink on your decision to buy firecrackers.