top of page

Burning firecrackers is adding another ingredient to the toxic soup that is Delhi's air

Every October, delhi wakes up to a recurring nightmare. Even healthy people are advised to avoid exposure by exercising outdoors. This drop in air quality is over and above the fine dust that seems to cover every surface of our homes and every plant in sight, all year round.

After the lockdown in March, Delhi saw clear blue skies for the first time in ages. People posted pictures on Instagram and hoped that the pandemic would teach people a thing or two about respecting nature and doing their two bits to tackle pollution in the future. Come festive season and mass amnesia seems to set in. Vulnerable people have no other option but to use air purifiers in homes and offices. This post in not a new plea but a reminder to be considerate to fellow humans, animals, and the planet alike. Listed below are a number of reasons why you should abstain, as well as advice by experts.


Respiratory and other health issues

If you think only people who have asthma need to worry, you're mistaken. Metal atoms in aerosols and sulphuric pollutants can cause cardiovascular, gastrointestinal or reproductive problems, disturb hormonal metabolism, damage kidneys and liver, or be a key cause of auto-immune or nervous disorders, tumours and cancer.

"There is certainly a detrimental effect of air pollution on our health, both in the long and short term. Exposure to high levels of ambient pollution have shown a rise in chronic cough, phlegm and breathlessness, and people are at an increased risk of developing respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allergic rhinitis, lower respiratory tract infections and lung cancers. Inhalation of firework chemicals and metallic elements can trigger lung fibrosis and bronchoconstriction. Some elements can also have cytotoxic and genotoxic effects on lung cells. It can also trigger bronchospasm and eosinophilic pneumonia in vulnerable individuals. A 30% to 40% increase in cases of respiratory diseases and worsening of bronchial asthma during Diwali is reported in patients across ages and genders. Moreover, in comparison, children seem to be even more susceptible to the harmful effects of pollution caused by firecrackers, as they have a limited ability to metabolise and detoxify polluting agents."

- Dr. Vishal Bansal, MD, DNB, PhD

Assistant Professor and In-charge Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program,

Department of Physiology, V.P. Chest Institute, University of Delhi

Read a detailed report from the archives of Lung India here. Whether masks offer proper protection is also up for debate.

Burns and injuries

We've all heard stories of the child labour involved in Sivakasi's fireworks factories, and the ugly accidents that have happened in the past. Sadly, here is yet another recent news item reporting an explosion.

"Diwali is around the corner and children are looking forward to burn firecrackers this year too. But we have seen small children, especially younger than 12 years old, having grievous injuries especially on the head, neck and upper limbs due to negligence while burning crackers. It can lead to 2nd-3rd degree burns with loss of eyesight in severe cases. Apart from polluting the environment, firecrackers are a serious health hazard. It is advisable to avoid them."

- Dr. Tanvi Pal, Paediatric Dermatologist


Annually, charitable bird hospitals see a rise in casualties around Diwali time. Besides accidents, animals are bound to suffer from noise anxiety as have more sensitive hearing than people do. You could try creating a safe space for your pets indoors, with thick blankets sound-proofing your windows. Pheromone sprays may or may not help to calm them. Instead, try giving them one of your used T-shirts for comfort.

"Firecrackers will add to the burden of air pollution that already afflicts Delhi. The noise and resulting garbage the next day is something the city doesn't need in these tough pandemic times. Animals suffer a great deal of distress and tension with these firecrackers, as do old people and children. Pets get lost, strays find people perpetrating cruel jokes on them by tying firecrackers to their tail or around their necks, and injuring them. Diwali should be celebrated with lights, gobar and mud diyas, a genuine celebration of the divine energies and illumination, without the smoke and chemical pollution that causes breathing trouble to man and animal. Friendicoes urges everyone, especially the young, to celebrate Diwali with sweets, music, lights, friendship and goodwill but without the noise and pollution by firecrackers. If children and young people vow not to burn a single firecracker, adults will follow suit. Take special care of your pets. They do not enjoy the firecrackers and noise. It frightens them. Keep them safe inside the house. Please allow strays to take refuge in your driveway and backyards till the festival is over. For a street dog, it can be the difference between life and death."

- Geeta Seshamani, Vice President, Friendicoes


Air Pollution

Besides burning a hole in your pocket, you're possibly contributing to burning a hole in the ozone layer. Toxic smoke released from the crackers contains sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, particulate matter and traces of harmful heavy metals such as potassium, magnesium, barium, aluminium and lead.

Noise Pollution

Dussehra and Diwali are festivals of light, not sound. It's better to light traditional diyas as they are biodegradable. Some fireworks can reach decibel levels of 150-175. Being in close range of anything over 140 decibels can give you permanent hearing loss. Loud sounds can also damage the hair cells in the inner ear of babies, hindering their auditory development.

Land Pollution

A lot of garbage is generated from just five minutes of your entertainment. Along with ending up in landfills, the pollutants trickle into our rivers as well. Bio-accumulative toxins are known to persist for a long time and for making it into our food chain.

Instead of wasteful pyrotechnic displays, consider using the same amount of money to distribute food or donate blankets to the poor.


People in urban environments need to educate themselves not only about the serious hazards posed by vehicular pollutants, industrial fuel burning or crop burning but also actively participate in demanding urgent policy-making by the government to ensure air quality regulation. One of the measures should be banning of all fireworks. Please sign the Greenpeace petition here.

Also see: Care for Air's advice on How to protect yourself

79 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page