General Question

gailcalled's avatar

Do fireworks pollute? Are they still worth it?

Asked by gailcalled (54563points) July 3rd, 2008

My response would be “no,” but I have seen many and am jaded. I’d rather breathe better air.

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9 Answers

Harp's avatar

Hmm..I love fireworks, but a bit of research turns up the following potentially toxic compounds commonly used in pyrotechnics or resulting from their combustion, and their associated hazards:

Aluminum (Contact dermatitis, bioaccumulation)
Antimony sulfide (Toxic smoke)
Barium Nitrate (Poisonous. Fumes can irritate respiratory tract)
Copper compounds (Polychlorinated dioxins and dibenzofurans. Can bioaccumulate. Cancer risk)
Lead Dioxide / Nitrate / Chloride (Bioaccumulation, developmental danger for kids & unborn babes, may remain airborne for days, poisonous to plants & animals)
Lithium compounds (Toxic and irritating fumes when burned)
Mercury (Mercurous chloride) (Toxic heavy metal. Can bioaccumulate)
Nitric oxide (Toxic by inhalation. Is a free radical)
Nitrogen dioxide (Highly toxic by inhalation. SIDS risk)
Ozone (Greenhouse gas that attacks & irritates lungs)
Perchlorate – Ammonium & Potassium (Can contaminate ground & surface waters, can cause thyroid problems in humans & animals)
Potassium Nitrate (Toxic dusts, carcinogenic sulfur-coal compounds)
Strontium compounds (Can replace calcium in body. Strontium chloride is slightly toxic)
Sulfur Dioxide (Acid rain from sulphuric acid affects water sources, vegetation & causes property damage. SIDS risk)

Additionally, there is a large amount of ultra-fine particulate matter that poses an inhalation risk, especially to asthmatics.

Worth it? My heart is torn. Fireworks are a spark of magic that I would hate to see disappear from our lives. but… Agh! I don’t know!

mvgolden's avatar

Any time you have combustion, you generate CO2. There is also the pollution and carbon footprint created by the transport and manufacturing of the fireworks. Not to mention the pollution from all the cars of all the people sitting in traffic jams going to and leaving the show. So yes, if you look at the whole life cycle of the fireworks then yes they do. Not to mention all that stuff that Harp just listed

Harp's avatar

Oops, here’s the attribution.

marinelife's avatar

We have the technology to mimic fireworks light effects. We should probably move in that direction. One reason I think we don’t is that men like to play with fire.

To minimize the damage, perhaps they should be limited to municipal displays.

@Gc If you’ve seen one batch of fireworks, you have seen them all until you sit next to a small child, and see the wonder and magic all over again for the first time.

Harp's avatar

@Marina
”...men like to play with fire.” Good call. I get the same little visceral thrill when I weld.

marinelife's avatar

@Harp I talk a good game, but I love having my own fireworks (even though we don’t nowadays). It is interesting, because I grew up with them, but hubby didn’t. He views them as dangerous (which they are). Still, ground blooming flowers and even sparklers are a bit of a thrill!

xyzzy's avatar

Yes, there’s nasty stuff in fireworks. But we’re talking about a few hours a year folks. I seriously doubt there is a significant impact compared to other sources of pollution.

Consider this: Multiple fireworks displays are set off every night in Disney World for decades. Is the environment wrecked down there?

marinelife's avatar

On my list of the sins of Disney, fireworks doesn’t even make the top 100!

lefteh's avatar

Here is a patent application for a system of setting off fireworks with a decreased environmental impact. It’s really interesting if you have the energy and patience to read it.

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