As Diwali descends, markets are flooded with various types of crackers and more attraction this year is towards Chinese-made crackers. People, especially children, vie with each other to buy Chinese crackers as they produce more brightness and sound besides scintillation than the desi-crackers. Above all, they are cheaper than Indian-made crackers.
But more than the attraction, there is an element of danger behind them. Perhaps that is the reason why they are banned in states like Delhi and Tamil Nadu. Since there is no uniform law, the crackers are available in most other states without any problem.
According to a report by Indian Express, Chinese fireworks contain potassium chlorate which was banned in India way back in 1992 itself. The use of chemical is permitted in small quantities in specific circumstances — scientific purposes, manufacturing heads of matches, for use in paper caps for toy pistols, and in percussion caps for use in railway fog signals.
Potassium Chlorate is highly unstable and can explode with just a sharp jolt. Chemicals in Chinese firecrackers are also toxic, causing skin diseases and triggering allergies. Indian fireworks, by contrast, use potassium and sodium nitrates, which are more inert and, therefore, safer. Fireworks containing potassium chlorate or perchlorate will burn brighter and last longer, but will be more unstable.
Moreover, the use of foreign crackers was banned two years back. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry in September 2014 said, “Possession and sale of fireworks of foreign origin in India is illegal and punishable under the Law… Various Fireworks Associations have informed that these smuggled items include the chemical ‘Potassium Chlorate’ which is a dangerous and hazardous chemical and can ignite or explode spontaneously.”
China is the world’s largest manufacturer of fireworks, makes a wide range of these products, and was the source of most low-cost fireworks coming into India.
Chinese as well as Indian fireworks do not mention chemical compositions and noise levels, which is mandatory under the Explosive Rules, 2008. The noise ceiling for firecrackers is 145 decibels, according to report.
Since illegally imported Chinese crackers often have higher sulphur and potassium chlorate content, the levels of pollution they create are also higher. The high sulphur content produces toxic oxides of sulphur, which cause eye irritation and respiratory distress. Handling potassium chlorate irritates the skin and causes breathing trouble. Prolonged exposure can lead to bronchitis, and affect the kidneys and the nervous system.