There are no “Green” Fireworks!


Fireworks are deceivingly beautiful but I took a closer look.

They contain many poisons and carcinogens and cause many injuries and deaths every year. The environmental impact of these poisonous and sometimes radioactive elements being spread of human and animal populations is astounding!

Before we get started I have to say there is another great site on this topic : http://www.backcountryattitude.com/toxic_fireworks.html

Toxicity & Pollution

Cancer! Neurological Effects?! There is a seemingly unending supply of science and studies that leave me shocked that fireworks are used at all. Here are some interesting articles followed by chemical effects on biological systems.

• Dioxens
…able to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer…

…fireworks produce smoke and dust that contain various heavy metals, sulfur-coal compounds and other noxious chemicals. Barium, for instance, is used to produce brilliant green colors in fireworks displays, despite being poisonous and radioactive. Copper compounds are used to produce blue colors, even though they contain dioxin, which has been linked to cancer. Cadmium, lithium, antimony, rubidium, strontium, lead and potassium nitrate are also commonly used to produce different effects, even though they can cause a host of respiratory and other health problems…


“Fireworks and Heavy Metals
The explosion of fireworks has been discovered to be a source of intense heavy metal release that is being addressed in Sweden and other countries. The fireworks that are displayed in the skies to celebrate events such as Independence Day and New Years Eve, etc. contain carcinogenic sulphur-coal compounds. Fireworks spread an odor of black gunpowder and spreads radioactive barium, which makes the green sparkling color and considerable amounts of strontium, along with arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead, copper, zinc and chromium. These toxic metals have been measured and found to be four to five times elevated in the air after the fireworks displays. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 90 tons of lead alone, are released in an hour or two of fireworks displays. The increased heavy metal exposure constitutes a direct risk for people with asthma, metal allergies and chemical sensitivities. Infants and children are particularly vulnerable and may suffer permanent damage. Many pet owners and farmers are concerned and wild life remains completely unprotected. Many displays are over lakes and other bodies of water, used for drinking water and recreational swimming. This is discouraging and demoralizing to learn that such a vast pollution release on one single occasion is permitted.”

• Perchlorates
… after the fireworks, perchlorate concentrations spiked to values ranging from 24x to 1028 the mean baseline value…

 • Lung Desease
…sulfur-laden gases and particulate matter may seriously affect asthmatics and sufferers of lung diseases…


 • Strontium (red):
Effect on the human body

….. but the radioactive 90Sr can lead to various bone disorders and diseases, including bone cancer. The strontium unit is used in measuring radioactivity from absorbed 90Sr.

 • Aluminum (white):
According to the 
Alzheimer's Society, the overwhelming medical and scientific opinion is that studies have not convincingly demonstrated a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease.[81] Nevertheless, some studies, such as those on the PAQUID cohort,[82] cite aluminium exposure as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Some brain plaques have been found to contain increased levels of the metal.[83]

• Barium (green):
Biological dangers and precautions

….. At low doses, barium ions act as a muscle stimulant, whereas higher doses affect the nervous system, causing cardiac irregularities, tremors, weakness, anxietydyspnea and paralysis. This may be due to the ability of Ba2+ to block potassium ion channels, which are critical to the proper function of the nervous system.[38] Other target organs for water-soluble barium compounds (i.e., barium ions) are eyes, immune system, heart, respiratory system, and skin.[37] They affect the body strongly, causing, for example, blindness and sensitization.[37]

Barium is not carcinogenic,[37] and it does not bioaccumulate.[39][40] However, inhaled dust containing insoluble barium compounds can accumulate in the lungs, causing a benign condition called baritosis.[41] For comparison to the soluble poisons, the insoluble sulfate is nontoxic and is thus not classified as a dangerous good.[29]

• Cadmium (various):

Main article: Cadmium poisoning

The most dangerous form of occupational exposure to cadmium is inhalation of fine dust and fumes, or ingestion of highly soluble cadmium compounds.[2] Inhalation of cadmium-containing fumes can result initially in metal fume fever but may progress to chemical pneumonitispulmonary edema, and death.[46]

Injuries & Deaths
I only listed a few sources but there are many about the instantaneous injury potential from being at a show or using your own fireworks. Try doing a search for “fireworks injure spectators” etc. You will be shocked!

9600 People treated do to fireworks injuries!
Quoting the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

 •  “Fireworks-related injuries sent more than 3,800 children to hospital emergency rooms in 1997”

There are alternatives to fireworks so here is one:
An Environmental look at LASERS vs. Fireworks

Wildlife Impact

Absolutely no earsplitting whistle booms or concussions from lasers.
Absolutely no large strobe-like flashes from lasers

Verdict : Lasers, Minimal Impact, if any on wildlife!

Carbon Footprint
A common laser show1 (4 hours)
1.380 kg of Carbon
A small Lighting rig2 (4 hours)
15.260 kg of Carbon
An average Fireworks show5 (4 minutes)
4.5kg of Carbon

•For every 270 grams of black powder used, 132 grams of carbon dioxide are created!
•49% of the weight  is converted to CO2

Verdict : Lasers, Small carbon footprint compared to other Special Effects!

 Notes & References

1.  (2 2-3W green heads =800W)

2.  (4 MAC 250 (360 W), 12 Source-4 or PAR(600W), Desk(200W)=8840W)

3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/jul/10/u2-world-tour-carbon-footprint

4.  http://www.carbonfootprint.com/energyconsumption.html

5. Taking into account Packaging Fallout, and water as a result of combustion.


Carcinogens or Pollutants.

 Lasers are simply coherent light beams and do not directly produce any carcinogens or pollutants.
NO smells, health effects, or residues.
Safe for asthmatics.

Verdict : Lasers, NO Carcinogens or Toxic compounds!