iwas paputok

“Iwas Paputok” Campaign: BAN Toxics Collaborates with Schools to Prevent and Reduce Firecracker-Related Injuries

Toxics watchdog group, BAN Toxics, and Toro Hills Elementary School in Quezon City launched a joint “Iwas Paputok” campaign with 2,000 participants urging the public to avoid firecrackers and fireworks for health and environmental reasons, promoting a toxic-free and waste-free Christmas and New Year celebration.

The event was timely given the recent tragic incident in Lapu-lapu City, where a firecracker factory fire resulted in the loss of four lives and injuries to six others, including a seven-year old child.

Under the theme “Iwas Paputok, Iwas Disgrasya, Iwas Polusyon,” BAN Toxics collaborates with the school, local officials, and representatives from the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection assembled for an awareness-raising community parade. Students dressed in varied costumes portrayed the harmful effects of firecrackers and fireworks.

“We need to continue public awareness regarding the health hazards posed by firecrackers and fireworks, particularly among children. These festive items pose significant health concerns among children due to the presence of toxic chemicals that can severely harm the nervous and respiratory systems,” said Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner of BAN Toxics.

The chemicals and substances present in firecrackers include cadmium, lead, chromium, aluminum, magnesium, nitrates, nitrite, phosphates and sulfates, carbon monoxide, copper, manganese dioxide, potassium, sodium, zinc, oxides of nitrogen and sulfur. Exposure to these toxic chemicals can result in damage to the nervous and respiratory systems.

Aside from deaths and injuries caused by the unsafe manufacture and handling of firecrackers and fireworks, these products contain toxic chemicals that have been found to adversely affect people’s health. The chemical barium, used in firecrackers to produce the green color and prolong their shelf-life, has been banned in countries like India but is listed under controlled chemicals in the Philippines.

In 2015, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued Joint Memorandum Circular 2015-143. This directive aimed to regulate the sale, manufacture, distribution, and use of firecrackers, polyvinyl pipe ‘BOGA,’ and other pyrotechnic devices. It also advocated for preventive measures to mitigate firecracker and firework-related injuries, deaths, and property damage. The circular mandated cooperation among concerned local government units, the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Bureau of Customs during the holiday season.

To ensure a safer celebration for the coming year, BAN Toxics reiterated the call to abstain from firecrackers and fireworks, promoting alternative noise makers. This shift not only safeguards the environment but also protects human health, especially that of children.

According to news reports, last year witnessed a surge in fireworks-related injuries, reaching 307 cases—a 62 percent increase compared to the same period in 2021. The National Capital Region (NCR) consistently reported the highest number of fireworks-related injuries in both 2021 and 2022.

In incidents from June and November, firework-related injuries occurred due to an explosion in a Bulacan pyrotechnic devices stockroom caused by faulty wiring and a fatality involving a female firecracker factory worker in Barangay Bunlo, Bocaue, Bulacan, respectively, after a “kwitis” firework she was making exploded.

“We call the attention of the Philippine National Police, regulatory agencies, and local government officials to initiate monitoring and inspection, and eventual confiscation of prohibited firecrackers in the markets, both online and on-site to prevent firecracker-related injury among children,” he added.

Last November, BAN Toxics reported the early sale of various firecrackers openly being sold in Divisoria, Manila. These included crackling balls, crackers, pop pop, happy balls, dynamite, prohibited five stars, whistle bombs, and piccolos.

In alignment with government efforts to curb firecracker-related injuries, the group will lead “Iwas Paputok, Iwas Disgrasya, Iwas Polusyon” awareness campaigns in other communities to encourage safer and healthier holiday celebrations.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), the chemicals and substances present in firecrackers and fireworks are as follows:

  1. CADMIUM may produce irritation of the lungs and influenza-like symptoms. If cadmium is inhaled, ingested, or enters the body, it can accumulate and eventually damage the liver and kidneys. It is also a potential human carcinogen.

  2. LEAD may affect the hematological profile of a person including the central nervous system and inhibits brain function. Exposure may also lead to developmental delays, growth retardation, behavioral effects, and learning delays.

  3. CHROMIUM may cause skin damage and hypersensitivity, nasal mucosa ulceration, and nasal septum perforation. Long-term exposures may lead to lung cancer.

  4. ALUMINUM has been noted to cause impaired memory, dementia, and convulsions.

  5. MAGNESIUM dust and fumes when inhaled may irritate mucous membranes or upper respiratory tract and cause mental fume fever and deterioration of the central nervous system.

  6. NITRATES, NITRITE, PHOSPHATES, and SULFATES may cause dizziness, abdominal cramps, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weakness, and convulsions. Small repeated doses may lead to weakness, general depression, headache, and mental impairment. Phosphates may produce an acute effect on the liver and can cause severe eye damage and may eventually affect the central nervous system. Sulfates are skin and mucous membrane irritant and corrosive; it may cause edema of the lungs and can produce respiratory paralysis.

  7. CARBON MONOXIDE (colorless, odorless gas) may cause euphoria, headache, eye irritation, narcosis, coma, may be rapidly fatal after formulation leads to anoxia of the brain, nervous system and heart.

  8. COPPER dust fumes when inhaled may cause irritation in the respiratory tract.

  9. MANGANESE DIOXIDE fumes cause lung irritation, pneumonia, with possible Parkinsonian symptoms, rigidity, muscular pains and tremor.

  10. POTASSIUM irritation may lead to chemical pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. It may cause severe irritation of the upper respiratory tract with cough, burns and breathing difficulty.

  11. SODIUM may cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the nose, throat and respiratory tract.

  12. ZINC OXIDE fumes on lungs may cause mental fume fever symptoms like influenza, chills, fever, sweating and muscular weakness.

  13. OXIDES of NITROGEN and SULFUR may reduce pulmonary function and mucosal irritation. Powerful irritants may cause respiratory damage.

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