Fireworks Fizzle or Fizzle Shizzle?

fireworks display photo

Photo via Flickr by foxypar4

While the economy has put a damper on fireworks for July 4th in towns like Yonkers, N.Y., Springfield, MO and Flint, MI which can't afford the $35,000 to $100,000 that go up in smoke after the brilliant bursts, plenty of dazzling displays will fill the skies. Sound un-American to skip fireworks? Last year's poll about fireworks saw treehugger readers fairly divided on whether polluting fireworks should be history. You might skip the pyrotechnic displays, but better yet ask that your municipality to choose more environmentally friendly technologies available.
Are eco-fireworks an oxymoron? The sparkling popularity of fireworks aren't going to vanish despite the toxic heavy metals like barium, cadmium, lithium and lead, potassium nitrate and sulfur-coal compounds that disperse through the air and waters with smoke and ash. But some companies are making progress with environmentally safer technologies.

Researchers have developed an alternative formula that replaces perchlorate with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burns cleaner, according to Chemical & Engineering News. The new & improved technique reduces the amount of heavy metals and lowers the toxic effects.

Last year perchlorate was detected in eleven of Massachusetts drinking water supplies, including three public wells. It was concluded that fireworks nearby were the source of the contamination, so the state's Department of Environmental Protection set guidelines about protecting drinking water and the disposal of duds (a big source of the chemicals).

The Walt Disney Company pioneered a gunpowder-free, compressed-air launch method for the launch of firework displays at its parks, significantly reducing ground-level smoke and noise. The company donated the seven patents for the propellant technology to a non-profit organization so the patents can be licensed to other pyrotechnic providers.

And a Japanese enterprise with Sekon Company and Akita Industrial Technology Center has developed a biodegradable plastic firework shell that's safer than the usual dispersion of cinders and shrapnel during explosions.

"Pyrotechnical applications are significant polluters of the environment," said Thomas Klapötke of the University of Munich to Science Daily. He's working on alternatives that don't draw energy from "the oxidation of the carbon backbone, but from their high heats of formation, which are released upon their decomposition." These eco-friendlier combustion mixtures offer better color quality and intensity than conventional bombs bursting in air for more snap, crackle and pop and a greener holiday.

More on fireworks:
Oh No Mommy! Will the Greenies Take Fireworks Away From Us?
Beijing's New Year's Fireworks Tripled Pollution Levels Overnight
The Blogosphere's Top 5 Ways to Green Your 4th of July
Fireworks: Fun for the Whole Family or Dangerous Water Contaminants?

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