According to a Lancet study, nearly 16.7 lakh deaths and an estimated loss of USD 28.8 billion worth of output were India’s prices for worsening air pollution in 2019.

Delhi remains one of the worst affected cities, and the situation becomes more precarious during winters. Some of it could be attributed to the spurt in firecracker burning around Diwali.

As per data from the Central Pollution Control Board, in the last three years, there has been a spike in PM2.5 levels in the day following Diwali, which consequently pushes the Air Quality Index to the hazardous category. While firecrackers are not the sole reason, it adds to the existing elevated pollution levels.

According to a study by Pune-based Chest Research Foundation, burning of firecrackers produces exceptionally high levels of personal exposure to PM2.5 levels that are likely to have significant shortterm and longterm adverse health effects.

The team measured personal exposure of PM2.5 levels during the burning of six most commonly used firecrackers. They found that the burning of snake tablets produced the highest PM2.5 levels, followed by ‘ladi’, ‘hunter’, etc.

Dr Sundeep Salvi, chairman and director of Pulmocare Research & Education Foundation, who was also part of the study, told India Today that PM2.5 is one of the most harmful pollutants that can enter the bloodstream and harm other organs of the body apart from lungs.

In 2016, the situation became apocalyptic when PM2.5 levels were exceptionally high a day after Diwali, which led the Supreme Court to ban the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR the following year. The ban was also in place in subsequent years. However, the top court gave a few relaxations.

A similar ban was in place last year too, but it was not entirely effective because of late announcement. However, it did reduce PM2.5 levels. India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) looked at PM2.5 levels in Delhi’s RK Puram area in the Diwali week over the last three years and found that while there was a sudden spike in PM2.5 levels in 2018 and 2019, it fell marginally in 2020.

Dr Salvi said the ban on burning firecrackers helps in reducing personal exposure to harmful pollutants. He added that many children with delicate lungs are also exposed to a significant level of personal pollution while bursting firecrackers. A human being inhales 11,000 litres of air every day, and imagine what it can do to the lungs if that air is polluted. According to a report by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, air pollution has reached a severe level in India and adversely impacted life expectancy…