Environmental health organization EcoWaste Coalition has proposed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases a ban on the use of firecrackers and fireworks to welcome a pollution-free 2021.
In a letter sent to the IATF-EID last Nov. 17, the group pleaded for the adoption of a resolution to ensure a vigorous enforcement by national and local government authorities of a countrywide ban on firecrackers and fireworks to hail the New Year.
“Consistent with the government-led efforts to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), especially in community settings, we urge the IATF-EID to espouse an alternative way of heralding health and environment-friendly New Year that will be possible without the lighting of firecrackers and fireworks,” wrote EcoWaste president Eileen Sison.
“We further call on the Task Force to call for a ban on the use of taxpayers’ money for the procurement of firecrackers, fireworks, and similar explosives, which should be judiciously used to improve the people’s living conditions so affected by the pandemic and the flurry of typhoons that have ravaged parts of the country,” she said.
The group called to mind the IATF-EID’s successful effort to restrict mass gatherings during the time-honored observance of Undas by shutting down public cemeteries, private memorial parks, and columbaria from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4 which helped in preventing the risk of COVID-19 transmission as Filipinos pay homage to their dearly departed.
“We are certain that the IATF-EID can also succeed in ensuring a safe and ecological welcome of the New Year sans firecrackers and fireworks,” Sison said.
EcoWaste noted that banning firecrackers and fireworks amid the COVID-19 pandemic is highly justified considering that lighting firecrackers and fireworks emits loads of toxic gases and pollutants to the environment causing poor air quality in a short period of time, which can weaken the immune system’s function and put a person at a higher risk of respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
It also cited that exposure to toxic pollutants emitted from the bursting of firecrackers and fireworks is dangerous to everyone, especially to the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, including those afflicted with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart problems, diabetes, and other illnesses, as they tend to develop more severe symptoms of coronavirus disease.
“Even minor injuries resulting from firecracker and firework accidents will require emergency care and treatment at a hospital to prevent tetanus infection, further straining an already overburdened healthcare system,” EcoWaste pointed out.
“Celebrating the New Year with firecrackers and fireworks encourages mass gathering in the neighborhood or in a community or park hosting a fireworks display, which will make physical distancing, a precautionary health measure against COVID-19, difficult to observe,” it added.
Instead of spending public, or even private, funds for firecrackers and fireworks, the group believes that resources are better used to augment disaster relief and assistance for the survivors of typhoons “Quinta,” “Rolly,” and “Ulysses” and other destructive calamities.
The resources saved from procuring such health and environment damaging products can also be used for additional hazard allowance for COVID-19 frontline workers in the healthcare sector; and for the provision of seed capital for a start-up business of retrenched employees, it pointed out.