Why do we always blame Diwali firecrackers for air pollution?

 Why do we always blame Diwali firecrackers for air pollution?

Abhinav Gupta

Every year the spirit of the festive season is dampened by the onset of poor air quality and the rise of medical complications related to Asthma, inflammation in the eyes, skin allergies, COPD, and other respiratory tract diseases. While firecrackers bear the blame for the air pollution levels, it is essential to note that pollution is a year-round phenomenon. PM2.5, PM10, and CO levels are usually always above the safe limits in all major cities especially Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore.

Why air pollution rises this time of the year
The toxic gases and particulate matter from vehicles, industrial emissions, construction dust, and stubble-burning practices are present in the air we breathe, in other seasons. However, the colder temperatures and reduced wind speeds do not allow the pollution to rise to the upper layers of the atmosphere and dissipate like in summers, making the skies appear grey, particularly in the valley region of North India, while in coastal cities like Mumbai, the sea breeze and moisture help disperse the pollution.

State Governments monitor the AQI levels
Outdoor air pollution is a consequence of activities that require intervention from the concerned authorities. For instance, the Delhi Government’s Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) uses monitoring stations and towers across the city to keep a check on the rising levels of PM2.5 and PM10 which are directly linked to several respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Based on the data collected by this technology, it adopts methods like the ban on diesel generator sets and other mitigation methods for construction and demolition dust and wastes if the AQI levels are in stage I, i.e. between 201 to 300. Last year, authorities implied a city-wide ban on crackers and construction activities when the AQI crossed 300.

What about the Air in our homes
Air pollution is often perceived as an outdoor occurrence, while the truth is, indoor air quality in our homes can be 2-5 times worse than outside. Indoor air is affected by several factors such as lifestyle choices, number of occupants, architectural limitations, household chemicals used, and cooking activities along with the pollution level outdoors, which already tends to be high around this time of the year. Although after Covid-19 people have begun to understand the importance of clean indoor air, a lack of information about pollutants and solutions seems to persist.

Pollutants in the Indoor Air we breathe
Simple activities like cooking, dusting, cleaning with disinfectants, or spraying air fresheners while we prepare our homes for guests in the festive season, could actually pollute our indoor air. The particulate matter from the dust and firecracker smoke that seeps into our homes, the Volatile Organic Compounds from our household cleaning chemicals, ground-level ozone from aerosol sprays, fumes and gases from heating cooking oils and stoves, along with the carbon dioxide we breathe out in closed spaces, affect the air quality levels in our homes.

Monitor and maintain clean Indoor Air
Indoor pollution is an avoidable evil. Simple responsible choices like abstaining from smoking indoors, switching to electric cooking or using natural fuels like LPG, opting for eco-friendly cleaning products, and practising Green Diwali can help maintain the air quality in your house. However, to know if these methods are beneficial to your home, it is important to monitor indoor air quality. Air quality tests for homes evaluate the PM2.5, PM10, Total VOCs, Carbon Dioxide, and Humidity levels of your house and offer solutions specific to your needs, such as improving ventilation in case of high levels of CO2, using an air purifier for PM2.5 or a dehumidifier for moisture-related problems.
While the authorities are doing their best to control and manage factors that worsen the AQI, we must support and comply with the government’s directives. However, the indoor air quality of our homes is our responsibility and it is important to make responsible choices, especially around festivities for the well-being of our families.

Abhinav Gupta is CEO and Co-Founder, ActiveBuildings


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