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What are Green Crackers?

Context:

According to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), green crackers are permitted only in cities and towns where air quality is moderate or poor.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Green Crackers?
  2. What are the toxic metals that traditional crackers release?
  3. Health Impact:
  4. SC on Firecrackers in the past

What are Green Crackers?

  • Green crackers do not contain harmful chemicals and reduce air pollution.
  • They are eco-friendly, i.e., green crackers are less harmful as compared to conventional firecrackers and reduces air pollution.
  • In green crackers, the commonly used polluting chemicals like aluminium, barium, potassium nitrate and carbon have either been removed or sharply reduced to slow down the emissions by 15 to 30%.

About the development of Green Crackers

  • These green crackers have been developed by the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab.
  • At the first phase of producing green crackers focus was on reducing pollutants and then further strategies will cover to remove pollutants from the compositions.
  • CSIR-NEERI have developed potential sound-emitting functional prototypes that do not emit sulphur dioxide.
  • The crackers have been named as Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL).
  • The particulate matter will be reduced by 30-35 per cent in SWAS and 35 to 40 per cent in SAFAL and STAR.
  • According to the researchers, these crackers have the unique property of releasing water vapour, air as a dust suppressant and diluents for gaseous emissions that match with the performance in sound with traditional conventional crackers.
  • Basically, green crackers don’t contain barium substance which is used in the firecrackers to add green colour, as barium can cause burns, poisoning and deaths.
  • Green crackers will reduce at least 30 percent emissions using particulate matter Potassium Nitrate as an oxidant.
About SWAS and STAR
  • The reduce particulate matter including sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by at least 30 percent and also eliminate the use of potassium nitrate and sulphur.
  • The two types have matching sound intensity with commercial crackers, that is, in the range of 105-110 dBA.
About SAFAL
  • Minimum use of aluminium that results in at least 35 percent reduction in a particulate matter as compared to commercial crackers.
  • Its sound intensity matches with commercial crackers in the 110-115 dBA range.
  • Product category consists of Chinese crackers, maroons, atom bombs, flowerpots, pencils and sparkles.

What are the toxic metals that traditional crackers release?

  • Crackers release several toxic metals that can be harmful for health.
  • The white color emitted through crackers is aluminium, magnesium and titanium, while the orange colour is carbon or iron.
  • Similarly, yellow agents are sodium compounds while blue and red are copper compounds and strontium carbonates.
  • The green agent is barium mono chloride salts or barium nitrate or barium chlorate.
Health Impact:
  • Lead in crackers impact the nervous system while copper triggers respiratory tract irritation, sodium causes skin issues and magnesium leads to mental fume fever.
  • Cadmium not just causes anemia but also damages the kidney while nitrate is the most harmful that causes mental impairment.
  • The presence of nitrite causes irritation in mucous membrane, eyes and skin.
  • The most vulnerable population though are infants, children, pregnant women, elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.

SC on Firecrackers in the past

  • In 2017, the SC had banned the use and sale of toxic crackers on the basis of a petition filed by two infants who pleaded for their right to life.
  • The court had said the sale of green and improved crackers would be only through licensed traders. It dismissed arguments that bursting crackers was a fundamental right and an essential practice during religious festivals like Diwali.
  • The Court’s endeavour was to strive at balancing of two rights, namely, right of the petitioners under Article 21 and right of the manufacturers and traders under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution
  • The SC said it felt that Article 25 [right to religion] is subject to Article 21 [right to life].
  • If a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not to entitled to protection under Article 25.

About the SC probe and the issues found with Firecrackers

  • In 2017, the Supreme court had banned the use and sale of toxic crackers during the celebration owing to diwali, Christmas, etc., on the basis of a petition filed by two infants.
  • In March 2020, the court ordered the CBI Joint Director in Chennai to conduct a detailed probe into allegations of violation of the court ban in 2018.
  • A chemical analysis of the samples of finished and semi-finished firecrackers and raw materials taken from the manufacturers showed barium content.
  • Firecracker covers did not show the manufacture or expiry dates.
  • Many firecracker manufacturers continued to use toxic ingredients fully knowing that the court had banned them.
  • Children are employed in these factories and are exposed to the poison.
  • The toxic ingredients end up poisoning the air and deteriorating the air quality.

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December 2022
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