Growing up, Diwali signified new beginnings, fun and festivities. The house bustled with friends and family and lights and smells that were truly unique to the time of year. As children, it meant new clothes, gifts, decorations, rangolis and lots of puja. Today as a mother, I try to re-create those same elements with my children. We light up the house, buy decorations, paint diyas and make rangolis. One thing that we do not do is burn fire crackers.
In the past few years, as air pollution levels in the city have increased, firecrackers coupled with the onset of winter increase the concentration of particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air you breathe by almost 10 times the safe limit. These particles are fine enough to get into your lungs and blood stream, and have adverse health impacts, especially for children who breathe deeper and more particles on average for their weight and size.
The World Health Organisation ranks Delhi at number 11 among the most polluted cities in the world. While this is an improvement from its former number 1 position, this is still way up in the list – which surveys 1083 cities.
Airveda conducted a study in 2016 where we compared PM2.5 and AQI numbers before and after Diwali and found that during that time, especially at 2am on Diwali, the numbers recorded were shocking. The PM2.5 values rose to above 700ug/m3, while the AQI(0-500) touched 500 in parts of Delhi.
Due to atmospheric inversion that happens in cold weather, Diwali firecrackers have a longer lasting effect that continues for over 10 days after Diwali. For this reason, at Airveda, we urge everyone to celebrate a cracker-free Diwali.
Here are some easy and fun ways to enjoy a smoke-free Diwali.
Replace the perfumed wax candles with traditional oil diyas
A smoldering candle wick produces much higher levels of fine particle mass emissions. Perfumed candles, jar candles, and oil candles emit a higher soot output than standard wax candles. Wicks that contain a lead core, lead to particle-borne lead. Traditional diyas with cotton wicks and oil emit much lower particulate matter. And nothing speaks festive more than the flickering light of diyas spread around the house!
Wish-lanterns instead of firecrackers
A single wish-lantern uses a paraffin fuel cell that burns for approximately 5-10 minutes. The emissions are much lower than firecrackers that emit PM2.5 equal to 2 cigarettes. If we are looking for a truly lit up Diwali night-sky, a lantern from each home seems to be a better way of achieving it than a firecracker that lasts for less than a minute.
Decorate your house with water bodies containing floating diyas and flowers
Water provides a settling mechanism for dust and particulate matter, helping reduce the PM2.5 concentration.
Things that go 'pop' and 'whoosh'
If you just cannot stay away from bursting something that goes ‘pop’ and ‘whoosh’, here is an eco-friendly alternative. Get some balloons and fill them up with colourful glitter. Or opt for party poppers. Have fun bursting them around others.
Gift a plant
Firecrackers often accompany gifts distributed during Diwali. How about replacing them with a plant instead – something that can be kept indoors. A NASA study shows that non-pollinating indoor plants keep the indoor air conditioned. Lets gift something healthy this Diwali!