Toxic Material in Firecrackers

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    Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) lamented the rampant violation of its ban on use of toxic ingredients in the firecracker industry.

    About

    • The Supreme Court highlighted the findings of preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the firecracker industry, including in Tamil Nadu.
    • A chemical analysis of the samples of finished and semi-finished firecrackers and raw materials taken from the manufacturers showed Barium content.
    • The court stated that loose quantities of Barium were purchased from the market. 
    • Firecracker covers did not show the manufacture or expiry dates.
    • The Supreme Court told the firecracker manufacturers that the right to life of innocent citizens was more precious than the right to employment of workers.

    Image Courtesy: TH

    Chemistry of fireworks

    • Explosive fireworks depend on four primary ingredients — 
      • oxidiser, 
      • fuel, 
      • colouring agents & 
      • Binder.

    Image Courtesy: ET 

    • The oxidisers in fireworks are chemicals that release oxygen to allow the explosion to take place. Ex: Nitrates, chlorates.
    • The fuel for burning is usually charcoal.
    • Colouring agents impart desired colours like aluminium compounds for brilliant whites, barium nitrate for greens.
    • Binders are used to hold the mixture of the firework together in a paste while burning.
    • Also, other metals like titanium & strontium are added to regulate the speed of the burning reaction.

    Image Courtesy: ET 

     

    Existing Guidelines

    • Currently, guidelines exist for four types of explosive firecrackers — atom bombs, Chinese crackers, garland crackers and maroons.
    • The guidelines for these were drawn by PESO in 2008 after the Supreme Court ordered it to regulate their composition.
    • According to these guidelines, the sulphur, nitrate & aluminium power contents must not exceed 20%, 57%, & 24% respectively.
    • In July 2016 the SC ordered that no firecrackers shall contain antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead.

    Image Courtesy: ET 

    Benefits of Banning Toxic Firecrackers

    • Eco-Friendly Diwali-  Lesser Air Pollution
    • Lesser Noise Pollution
    • Lesser diseases
    • Lesser Clutter Post-Diwali
    • Lesser Accidents
    • Avoiding Inhuman Conditions of Workers
    • Fewer Disturbances to Animals and Birds
    • Fewer Chinese Products
    • Money Savings

    Challenges

    • Sale and manufacture regulation
    • Behavioral change amongst people
    • Regulating time for bursting
    • Making switch by industry towards improved or green crackers

     

    Way Forward

    • There should be a balance between employment, unemployment and the right to life and health of citizens. 
    • Lives of many can not be sacrificed for a few. 
    • The  prime focus should be the right to life of innocent people.

    What are Green Crackers?

    • The SC identifies usable crackers in two categories: 
      • Improved crackers:
        • Improved crackers are those which avoid the use of ash as filler material (to reduce PM emission by 15-20 per cent) and usage of charcoal within the limitation that Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) prescribes.  
      • Green crackers: 
        • Green crackers are safe water and air sprinklers that emit less sound and light. 
        • They also ensure a PM reduction of 30-35 per cent and reduction in NOx and SO2 due to in-situ water generation acting as dust suppressant. 
        • These also cost less owing to usage of low cost oxidants. 
      • The judgment (of promoting Green Cracker) may prove to be a great initiative towards setting new standards for manufacture of firecrackers and spreading awareness about firecracker emissions. 
      • Implementing this would remain a challenge, seeing how authorities are still struggling with noise standards for crackers despite laws being formulated for the same in 1999. This may also make industries switch to cleaner crackers.

    Source: TH