Diwali fire-crackers shoot up air pollution 200-fold above the WHO safety limits; posing the worst threat to 30 million asthmatics in India

1 & 2 November 2010 | Pune, Chennai, Chandigarh
Press Release dissemination Centres: Mumbai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Lucknow

On the eve of Diwali, BreatheFree, a public service initiative by Cipla organized an awareness drive in three cities – Pune, Chennai and Chandigarh. The event brought asthmatic kids together in their respective regions to appeal to the masses to celebrate Diwali with Diyas instead of burning fire-crackers this year. As per a study done by Chest Research Foundation (CRF) - Pune, the burning of fire-crackers increases the level of sulphur dioxide 200-fold above the safety limits prescribed by World Health Organization (WHO). This gaseous air-pollutant along with other noxious gases emitted from the burning of fire-crackers aggravates the risk of triggering an attack in 30 million asthmatics in India and also has the potential to cause new cases of asthma. Fireworks are one of the provoking factors for childhood bronchial asthma, particularly in children between 6-12years and it has now been established that 26% of people without any prior history of respiratory ailments develop symptoms of coughing, wheezing and breathlessness especially during Diwali.

Firecrackers contain 75% potassium nitrate, 15% carbon and 10% sulphur and when they are burnt harmful gases such like sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, manganese and even cadmium, which irritates the delicate airways of the lungs and worsen the condition of people with Asthma, COPD, IPF, Bronchitis or any other respiratory ailments.

The press conference was addressed by Dr. Vijay Warad, Paediatric Pulmonologist, Sai Multispecialty Hospital and Consultant, Sahyadri hospital & Dr. Monica S Barne, Programme Co-ordinator, Chest Research Foundation in Pune; Dr. Amit Kumar Mandal, MD (Chest), Consultant Pulmonologist, Fortis Hospital in Chandigarh; Dr. R. Shridharan, Pulmonologist, Asthma and Allergic Resource Centre in Chennai.

Doctors highlighted that “Every year on the days of Diwali, there are about 10-15 asthma patients in my clinic who require emergency treatment due to aggravation of their asthma symptoms and in few cases even require hospitalization. Also, beginning Diwali till the end of February, there are about 30-40% more cases of asthma reported in the clinic. It only makes sense for all to restrict if not completely avoid firecrackers and show concern for others.”

They also said, “Though it is difficult to completely avoid the smoke emitted from the crackers during Diwali, asthmatics should stay away from crackers completely. It is also pertinent that asthmatics be well prepared with inhalers and adheres to their prescribed medicine strictly. As the air pollution also leads to the development of symptoms such as coughing wheezing and breathless even in healthy people, such as awareness drive as taken by Breathefree should help people to understand the implications of burning crackers.”

It has now been established that fire-crackers cause severe health hazards in even healthy people without any history of respiratory ailments. Coughing, wheezing and breathlessness are reported to develop in 26% people and there are about 20% people who complain of irritation of eyes, runny nose, allergy symptoms and itchy skin and these are all linked to the increase in air pollution caused by the fire-crackers.

Dos & Don’ts
• Pre-Diwali, arrange for the dusting and painting of house in the absence of asthmatic patients.
• Avoid stepping out during the peak hours in evenings and arrange indoor activities with friends and family.
• Be regular with your prescribed dose of inhalers, without fail.
• Carry the ‘Quick-Relief’ inhalers (Reliever in an emergency)
• Consult a doctor immediately if any of the asthma symptoms aggravate.

To support asthma patients and their families in understanding asthma, its symptoms, and the triggers and to remove the myths associated with the condition and its therapy, an extremely informative website www.breathefree.com from Cipla was also launched in Marathi and Tamil in Pune and Chennai respectively. The website is a step towards helping asthma patients in leading fulfilling lives as it gives them the knowledge and the confidence required to manage a chronic condition like asthma.

About Cipla:
Cipla laid foundations for the Indian pharmaceutical industry back in 1935 with the vision to make India self-reliant in healthcare. Over the years Cipla has emerged as one of the most respected names not just in India but worldwide. Its state of the art R&D centre has given the country and the world many firsts. This includes the revolutionary AIDS cocktail for less than a dollar a day. With over 40 manufacturing units across the country, Cipla manufactures over 1200 products in 80 therapies.

With a turnover of over US $ 1 billion, Cipla serves doctors and patients in over 180 countries. It has earned a name for maintaining one global standard across all its products and services. Cipla continues to support, improve and save millions of lives with its high-quality drugs and innovative devices. (www.cipla.com)