Well, it is that time of the year again (it is that time most of the year) when firecrackers rule the skies and air. Festival time, Diwali time and sound and fury everywhere, boxes of sweets, lamps, nice thoughts intermingled.
Let me cut to the chase. I hate firecrackers. With a passion. I never liked the acrid smell, nor the smoke nor the fact that I had to cough after that. Nothing pleasant about that for me. When I was a kid, firecrackers were limited to not sleeping and going to watch the Thrissur Pooram firecrackers from midnight to about 4-5 am. Those were in a huge ground in the center of the Thrissur town (The Vadakunnathan Temple grounds). They never started on time and i remember waiting patiently for them to start and just finish so i can sleep. (Of course, when they started, all one did was jump and hoot). Well, that fascination came to an abrupt halt one rainy year when the firecrackers (the rockets) decided to take a horizontal rather than vertical path and went into an eager crowd. The next bloodstained morning, I lost all interest in firecrackers.
Diwali in Tamil Nadu as an intern in an Ophthalmology setting, (and as a separate unique species named as the “non-Diwali celebrating Hindu”) i got reacquainted with firecrackers managing kids coming in with eye injuries related to firecrackers. Maybe a small percentage in terms of actual numbers, but still significantly bothersome as we could not restore vision for many of them.
When I reached Hyderabad, I was literally awestruck at the first Diwali here. There was only sound and smoke during the nights and the air was just so wonderfully filled with a chemical smell. I used to literally bunker down from evening and dare to venture only after 8 am the next day.
Things have improved. Maybe an increased awareness. Maybe the rising costs of Fire crackers.
Request all of you to please enjoy a noise free, smoke free, (and sweet free if you can) Diwali! You really don’t need much to celebrate this festival, a Lamp, light in your hearts and love for everyone. That is enough.
A few reference articles that look at the impact of firecrackers during Diwali
A study from Delhi, North India reported on 53 eyes of 45 patients that presented to an eye care setting during Diwali from 2011 to 2015. They reported that eighteen of these eyes had to undergo surgical interventions and 33 of the 53 eyes had a final vision that can be categorized as blindness.
A study from South India that looked at fireworks related ocular injury between 2009 to 2013 reported on 84 children. 44% of these 84 children required hospitalization and 8% of these children developed uniocular blindness as a consequence.
Another study from south India reported that almost an equal number of bystanders were affected by fireworks as were those who handled the fireworks. 44.8% of subjects had to undergo a surgical intervention and 36.7% patients developed vision impairment as a consequence.
A study from Hyderabad reported on the extensive burning of firecrackers constituting a significant source of aerosols, black carbon, organics and trace gases in the air. The widespread use of sparklers was found to be associated with short term degradation in air quality. A two to three fold increase was found in surface Ozone (03), nitrogen oxides (NO x) and Black Carbon aerosol concentration during the festival period compared to the control (non festival period). The presence of firecracker related aerosols was confirmed by Cloud Aerosol Lidar and infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation derived aerosol subtyping maps.
There are more studies that describe the effects of air pollution (short or long term), and the relation with firecrackers. There is a bucket load of evidence to show that bursting firecrackers (for whatever reason) is a practice that has to be regulated.
Personally, I think one firecracker itself is one too many. Spread the message. Please do not burst firecrackers.
Celebrate, but celebrate without disturbing yourself, the people around you, the communities around you, and nature.