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Lighting Firecrackers and Fireworks during New Year Revelry Result in Worst Pollution Episode in Metro Manila

Welcome 2023 with clean air

19 December 2022, Quezon City. Firecrackers and fireworks emit hazardous pollutants that can degrade air quality and harm human health as emphasized by experts at a webinar organized today by the EcoWaste Coalition as part of its yearly “Iwas Paputoxic” campaign.

Main presenter Genevieve Rose Lorenzo, Research Associate of the Manila Observatory, shed light on how the air quality in Metro Manila was affected during the 2019 New Year revelry, which particles were due to fireworks, and how firework-related emissions can impact health and the environment based on the study undertaken as part of the Cloud, Aerosol, and Monsoon Processes Philippines Experiment (CAMP2Ex).

“The worst air quality during the year in Metro Manila has been previously recorded during the New Year revelry as firework activities caused unhealthy increases in fine particulate matter (PM2.5). In fact, these were the only measurements in Manila Observatory that have reached the very unhealthy and hazardous ranges of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index,” said Lorenzo. “The hourly and average PM2.5 of 143.4 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) between 6:00 pm on December 31, 2018 and 8:00 am of January 1, 2019 exceeded the 24-hour National Ambient Air Quality Guideline Value (NAAQGV) of 50.0 μg/m3.”

When the air quality has reached the “very unhealthy” level of concern, “people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children (are advised to) avoid all physical activity outdoors, (and) everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.”

Dr. Maricar Limpin, a pulmonologist and immediate past President of the Philippine College of Physicians, agreed that “aside from the risk of physical injuries, lighting firecrackers and fireworks can increase ambient PM levels, which can trigger or aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis, pneumonia, rhinitis and sinusitis.” She said “infants, children, the elderly and persons with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of exposure to PM2.5 , which can penetrate deep into the respiratory tract and lungs,” adding “the extreme noise can affect hearing health, as well as cause restlessness, sleep disturbance and high blood pressure.”

Welcome 2023 with clean air

As highlighted by Lorenzo, firework activities caused significant enhancement of PM2.5 from 44.0 μg/m3 after 6:00 pm on December 31, 2018 to a maximum of 383.9 μg/m3 measured between 1:00 to 2:00 am of January 1, 2019. The hourly PM2.5 data were obtained from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) Central Office Air Quality Management Section in the Philippines and the Asia Center for Air Pollution Research (ACAP) in Japan of the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET). The very unhealthy levels of PM2.5 exceeded the standards set for PM2.5 over 24 hours by the Philippines (50.0 μg/m3), USA (35.0 μg/m3), and the World Health Organization (WHO, 25.0 μg/m3).

Traces of chemicals associated with firework components such as copper, strontium, barium, potassium, aluminum, and lead were also found to have increased by 6.1 to 65.2 times compared to levels before and during the New Year revelry.

“The citizens’ right to clean, non-toxic air has long been settled,” said Rene Pineda, Co-Chair of the National Capital Region Airshed Governing Board and former trustee of the EcoWaste Coalition, adding “that right cannot and should not be superseded by a long-held cultural practice of firecracker and firework revelries, which has become a social status symbol for many representing the exorbitant display of literally burning of money.”

“To our fellow citizens who are into this fix, we appeal to you to be circumspect about the health and safety of the greater many who could never afford such extravagance. We pray that during the New Year’s revelry, we can all do away with fireworks and replace them with a resounding joy of giving love to all of our fellows,” he added.

Suggested Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition: “Instead of wasting money for injurious, noisy and polluting firecrackers and fireworks, we urge households, commercial establishments and local government units to buy food and other necessities for needy people,” stressing “the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment must take precedence over toxic festivities.”



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