The New Year is just days away, and while many of still have the “Christmas hangover,” most of us are gearing up to usher in the year 2012. Even before Christmas, one could already hear the occasional “pop” or “bang” of fireworks being set off somewhere in the neighborhood. Right after Christmas, news reports of people sustaining fireworks-related injuries and fireworks-related fires ravaging homes already started trickling in from different parts of the country.
Reports from the EcoWaste Coalition, in particular, caught this writer’s attention. According to one news report, “the group said its teams found significant quantities of toxic metallic elements in all 11 firecracker types bought from street vendors in Divisoria, Manila.”
The report goes on to describe how teams from the non-government watchdog, using a handheld X-ray fluorescence analyzer, was able to detect “arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, manganese and zinc, which are used to generate sparkles and colors in pyrotechnics.”
Their findings show that “on the average, each firecracker sample contained three to six of these metals that are added to the black powder mixture of charcoal, sulfur, potassium or sodium nitrate.”
This in itself should set off warning bells for New Year revelers who usually include fireworks in their families’ New Year traditions. According to Aileen Lucero, “Iwas PapuToxic” campaigner, from the EcoWaste Coalition, their group is very concerned about the health effects of firecrackers and sparklers, many of which are held by hands or lighted near users who directly breathe the toxic fumes.
She says, “It’s hard to imagine the toxic cocktail created from the simultaneous blasting of huge quantities of firecrackers and fireworks during the countdown to the New Year, especially in urban areas.”
Ms. Lucero continues by pointing out more adverse effects of these traditional New Year celebration “add-ons”: “…the chemical smog can persist for hours, if not days, after the revelry, turning the atmosphere into a virtual gas chamber. This is especially hazardous for infants and children, pregnant women, and people suffering from chronic asthma.”