Easy Ways to Enjoy a Smoke-free Diwali with your Kids
The smells, sights and sounds of Diwali are what make it festive! As children, we woke up to the traditional bath, sweets and eats, and the glow of lamps. As we traipsed around feeling like birds of paradise in our colourful new festive feathers, the sound of crackers reverberated in the background. So a ban on crackers, especially if is a self- imposed one, might seem extreme.
Making informed choices is what makes us who we are and we thought it best to present an expert opinion on this cracker of an issue to make your Diwali as good as it can get!
In this very special blog post, Namita Gupta, the founder of Airveda - a startup committed towards helping people breathe well and live well - makes case for a pollution-free Diwali so our future generations can continue to enjoy the fun that Diwali is! An IIT Delhi alumnus, Namita has worked many years in the US at Microsoft, and Facebook, and was CPO at Zomato after she returned to India. She is also a proud mom to two little girls.
Here is what she says-
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.
We at 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.
1. 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 the diyas spread around the house!
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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. Let’s gift something healthy this Diwali!
Diwali is a time for new and better beginnings. We wish all the tots and their families good health, happiness and a wonderful future! Happy Diwali to you and yours!!