Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court temporarily banned the sale and distribution of firecrackers in the federal capital New Delhi ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. The idea was to control escalating air pollution as well as the problem of excessive noise. Here, ahead of bonfire night, we look at how dangerous loud bangs can be.
Around 50,000 tons of firecrackers are let off every year in Delhi on and around Diwali to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
But this year several petitions, including one by children, demanded a ban on the bangers which, last year, caused Delhi’s air to reach hazardous levels and led to the closure of all city schools for three days.
The Supreme Court ruled in early October that the ban would last till Nov 1, 13 days after Diwali. But it declared that those who had already bought firecrackers would be allowed to set them off.
Not just air pollution
Sound-emitting firecrackers are not just an air pollutant. They are also dangerous as far as noise pollution is concerned.
After all, this small explosive device is primarily designed to produce a large amount of noise, especially in the form of a loud bang.
In the UK, the sale of firecrackers has been illegal since 1997.
But this legislation has not reached many other countries – New Delhi being among them.
In New Delhi, the manufacture, sale or use of firecrackers generating noise level exceeding 125 dB(AI) or 145 dB(C) at four meters distance from the point of bursting are prohibited.
But at Diwali so many firecrackers are set off that the level of sound far surpasses legal limits.
And that’s not all.
A single firecracker lets off a short, sharp bang. But hundreds of firecrackers let off in one area produces sustained and excessive noise which can result in much more devastating damage.
In 2013, the Maharashata Pollution Control Board measured the noise pollution level across 15 areas of New Delhi during the three days of Diwali and found it to be consistently breaking legal limits.
The MPCB officials claimed that they had made efforts to control the noise pollution but the norms were violated due to rising number of firecrackers burst during the festival.
What about fireworks?
Here in Britain, The Fireworks Act is in force to cut the stress, noise and nuisance fireworks can cause, and reduce injuries.
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibits:
- Anyone under 18 years from possessing fireworks in a public place
- Anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks
- Any fireworks that detonate at a higher level than 120 decibels
- The use of fireworks at night (11pm – 7am) in England and Wales. This is extended to midnight on Bonfire Night.
- Air bombs are banned and there are new strict controls on mini-rockets.
As we head towards Bonfire Night in the UK, how can we protect ourselves from the damage of hearing loss while enjoying watching the sky light up?
After all, exposure to these excessive noise levels over a just short period can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.
Well, as experts in noise pollution we have some top tips for protecting your hearing at a fireworks display:
- Stand further away
It might sound obvious, but moving further away can greatly decrease the sound levels you are exposed to. The minimum distance for adults is between 15-20 metres, whereas as children should be 50-60 metres away from the display. You can also appreciate the overall display more from a distance.
- Use hearing protection
Have you been to a firework display and left with a rushing or ringing sensation in your ears? Do ordinary sounds seem muffled or are quieter than normal? If so, that is a sign you have been exposed to damaging sound levels. Ear plugs and headphones can block excessive noise from reaching the inner ear, where it causes the most damage.
We make noise reduction our business – we have even supplied noise barriers at events, music festivals and parties where fireworks are set off.
Stay safe this November 5th.