22 December 2023, Quezon City. As Christmas nears and as the year draws to a close, the EcoWaste Coalition called on every Filipino to stay away from the Chinese-influenced tradition of detonating firecrackers and fireworks to usher in the New Year.
In an “Iwas Paputoxic Community Program and Parade” held in Barangay Central, Quezon City, the advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society encouraged the general public to opt for healthier and safer celebrations to welcome 2024 without the traditional injuries, smoke, noise and litter from firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices.
The community event held in partnership with Barangay Central exhorted residents from all walks of life to prioritize public safety and the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment over a tradition that has become notorious for causing bloody injuries with children as perennial victims, sparking fires, generating hazardous waste, and emitting loads of environmental contaminants.
“We urge our families and communities to herald the New Year in a manner that will not further degrade the air quality with added chemical pollutants, cause senseless loss of body parts and even lives, destroy homes, and torture cats and dogs with ear-splitting sounds from the bursting of firecrackers and fireworks,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, which has been holding yearly “Iwas Paputoxic” events since 2006.
For her part, Punong Barangay Rosa Magpayo of Barangay Central said in Filipino: “Hinihikayat ko ang lahat na makiisa sa kampanya para sa ligtas na pagsalubong sa Bagong Taon. Ang polusyon, sunog at disgrasya, laluna ng mga bata, ay maiiwasan kung hindi magtitinda at gagamit ng mga paputok. Puwede namang maging masaya kahit walang paputok.” Executive Order No. 54, series of 2022 prohibits private households in Quezon City from using firecrackers and from staging their own fireworks displays.
“Aside from the loud noises, injuries, fires and litter, setting off firecrackers and fireworks releases a cocktail of toxic pollutants, including fine dust particulates, heavy metals, and greenhouse gasses carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide that can severely affect the air quality and make people sick, especially the children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions,” said Dr. Geminn Louis Apostol, environmental health specialist at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.
“Asthma, bronchitis, laryngitis, pneumonia, rhinitis, sinusitis, hearing loss, high blood pressure, and heart attacks are some of the health issues associated with human exposures to noise and pollution from firecrackers and other pyrotechnics,” he said.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the non-use of firecrackers and fireworks during the festive celebrations of Christmas and the New Year will protect the people’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to health and to a healthful environment, as well as help in upholding important environmental, health, and animal protection laws such as the Clean Air Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, Climate Change Act, and the Animal Welfare Act.
Held every December starting in 2006, except in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the EcoWaste Coalition’s “Iwas Paputoxic” advocacy complements the Department of Health-led “Iwas Paputok” campaign.
After Christmas Day, the EcoWaste Coalition will hold another “Iwas Paputoxic” community event on December 27 in Caloocan City in collaboration with Barangay 176 and the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA). Another event will take place in Quezon City on December 28 in cooperation with the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and SM North EDSA to highlight the hazards of firecrackers to cats and dogs and promote animal safety during the New Year revelry.