No significant difference was noticed in respiratory symptoms in the days before and after Diwali and Dussehra last year, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) told the Supreme Court Friday. The top court had banned sale of firecrackers in the Capital during the festive season.
Citing a study conducted by the Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), the CPCB, in an affidavit filed through its Additional Director and head of Air Quality Management Division Prashant Gargava, said “the respiratory system related symptoms and signs were not much different during pre and post-Dussehra and Diwali. Although there was some increase in a cough and breathlessness, but this did not translate into any significant illness requiring immediate medical attention. Other system related complaints were also not much during pre and post Dussehra and Diwali”.
The affidavit stated that the “air quality did worsen during Diwali and symptoms of… increased coughing, relatively more hospital visits, increased noise levels and high metal levels in urine do reflect adverse impact of firecracker bursting”. But this was not significant statistically, the CPCB said, adding “a long-term study would be required to assess long-term health impacts of firecracker bursting”.
On September 12 last year, the Supreme Court directed that a committee be constituted to study the health impact of bursting firecrackers during Diwali. Following this, the CPCB formed a committee on September 19. The committee awarded the project to MAMC.
The MAMC study said: “There was evidence of increased values of barium and strontium in urine samples of many subjects. These are some of the metals used in firecracker manufacturing. Increased levels in urine do reflect a probability of exposure. However, all other elements are not increased to substantiate the effect of bursting of firecrackers. It is also possible that the individuals were exposed due to bursting of firecrackers directly or indirectly in their locality.”
The CPCB said it did air quality monitoring during Dussehra and Diwali in Delhi which revealed a “slight increase” in PM10 (particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter) levels in Pitampura and Siri Fort on Dussehra day. PM 2.5 mass concentrations were found lower on the day after Dussehra at all monitoring stations and it was highest on Dussehra eve. “Though actual mass concentrations declined on Dussehra day, certain specific elemental concentration like aluminium, potassium and barium showed increment on Dussehra day, which indicate some firecracker bursting has affected air quality,” it stated.