Government Urged to Adopt Pro-Climate, Pro-Environment and Pro-Health Stance vs Paputok

A coalition of citizens’ groups today appealed to both the public and private sectors to adopt a strong policy against firecrackers and fireworks that will protect the climate, the environment and people’s health.

In a statement released ahead of the Department of Health-organized “Firework Related Injury Summit” to be held tomorrow, February 8, at the Manila Grand Opera Hotel, the EcoWaste Coalition called for a switch to non-injurious, non-polluting and non-wasteful way of celebrating the New Year and other festive occasions.

The EcoWaste Coalition sought for a comprehensive ban similar to what is being enforced in Davao City since 2001 that has dramatically reduced firecracker-related injuries and deaths to zero.

“Some people were understandably cynical when Davao City introduced the firecracker ban. They thought it could not be done. But the sceptics have been proven wrong. The Davaoeños have shown it could be done if there is political will on the side of the local officials,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group gave the cold shoulder to community fireworks display saying that centralized fireworks also generate pollutants and wastes, and cause injuries like what happened at the UP Lantern Parade last December 16, 2011 when wayward fireworks injured 17 spectators.

“We believe that no public funds should be spent for community fireworks display. The public should not pay for expendable activities that also pose harm to health, the environment and the climate,” Lucero said.

To justify their call for a holistic pro-climate, pro-environment and pro-health policy versus firecrackers and fireworks, the EcoWaste Coalition cited seven reasons:

1. Firecrackers and fireworks contribute to climate change, which the Lancet has described as “the greatest global health threat of the 21st century,” posing potentially irreversible threat to humans and the planet. The creation of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from non-essential uses such as the blasting of firecrackers and fireworks to ring in the New Year aggravate the unfolding climate crisis and should be decisively curbed.

2. Firecrackers and fireworks cause serious if not fatal injuries to users as well as non-users. From 2000 to 2011, the DOH recorded 10,107 firecracker-related injuries. Add to this the statistics from the latest celebration to welcome 2012 – “the deadliest ever” – with 4 fatalities and 1,004 injuries (970 of which were firecracker-related injuries).

3. Firecrackers and fireworks contain dangerous chemicals and produce toxic dusts and fumes, exacerbating the poor air quality and causing throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with asthma and chemical sensitivities. In fact, levels of total suspended particulates (TSPs) in Metro Manila rose to as high as 1,000 micrograms per normal cubic meter during the last revelry, way above the World Health Organization’s standard of clean air at 90 mcg/ncm.

4. Firecrackers and fireworks create thick smog resulting to poor visibility, causing public safety hazards and forcing the necessary diversion or cancellation of flights like what happened on January 1, 2012 that affected two international and eight domestic flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

5. Firecrackers and fireworks generate tons of toxic-laced non-reusable and non-recyclable discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers that add to the mountains of holitrash (holiday trash), which are buried in dumpsites and landfills or disposed of in streets and waterways.

6. Firecrackers and fireworks produce deafening noise that can trigger anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, hearing disabilities, and even high blood pressure and heart attack. The ear-splitting explosions terrify and cause “acoustical torture” for animals, especially cats and dogs who are more sensitive to sound than humans.

7. Firecrackers and fireworks squander hard-earned money for few minutes of “dirty” entertainment, which is better spent to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and shelter for the homeless. In addition, the public funds spent to pay for the cost of treating firecracker-related injuries can be used to support primary health programs.

The massive detonation of both legal and illegal pyrotechnics goes against the basic state policies of safeguarding human health and the ecosystems as enshrined in the Constitution, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

It also contravenes key provision of major environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act of 1999, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, Clean Water Act of 2004 and the Climate Change Act of 2009, as well as the Animal Welfare Act of 1998, the group said.