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Eco-Friendly Fourth of July Fireworks

written by: Marina Hanes•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 6/11/2015

What is Independence Day without the fireworks? The spectacular light display put on in nearly every city is not as healthy for us, or the environment, as we would like. However, more eco-friendly fireworks are making their way onto the shelves. It is time to give these new fireworks a try!

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    Why Should You Care?

    Are you one that sets off fireworks for your friends, family and neighbors every Fourth of July? If it is, you’re not alone. For many, Fourth of July celebrations would not be adequate without the colorful display of familiar booms and crackles in the sky. While it is an entertaining show, it’s not the most eco-friendly way to celebrate this holiday.

    One aspect of fireworks that we often ignore is where the toxins and explosives used to create the thrilling performance go. For the most part, they currently fall from the sky after they've adequately performed and coat the surrounding area with toxic chemicals or link with the air you breathe. This can be anything from the lake you and your family swims in to the trees in your backyard.

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    Toxins in Fireworks

    There are several toxic ingredients used in creating the colorful and sparkly fireworks. In the 1990s, arsenic was still used in “snakes" until it was later banned in the United States. Since then the firework industry has come along way, but many formulations are nowhere near being friendly to the environment and our bodies.

    Potassium perchlorate and barium nitrate are main ingredients used as oxidizers. Oxidizers help the burning turn to an explosion. However, both of these ingredients are not good for us or our environment. Potassiumm perchlorate contaminates soil, air and water. In addition, this particular chemical al a reputation for damaging the thyroid gland, which helps regulate our hormones. Likewise, barium nitrate is also not a great chemical for our health. Barium nitrate is known to constrict people's ability to breath and can interfere with heart function.

    Not only are these chemicals not good for us and our bodies, but they are altering our environment as they cause light and air pollution for the living organisms around us.

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    Eco-friendly Fireworks

    Fireworks made from nitrogen-rich materials and nitrocellulose are less toxic and smoky. There have been a couple of key game-changers when it comes to creating more eco-friendly fireworks. Military scientists have worked to find oxidizers with less of a negative impact. Two possible ingredients in place of potassium perchlorate and barium nitrate are sodium and potassium periodate.

    Another group that has attempted to clean up their fireworks is The Walt Disney Company. They have developed “air launch" technology to replace gunpowder with compressed air.

    These two modifications are allowinf for modern designs to significantly decrease firework pollution. They prove that you can still have a "normal" Fourth of July without the harmful effects if you need to be conscious of which fireworks you purchase.

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    Recycling Fireworks

    Because most fireworks are categorized as explosives, it’s almost impossible to effectively recycle them. However, when you have firework waste, you still need to contact your local city council or city hall to find out how to properly dispose of them in your area. Most have resources accessible online for where, when, and how to dispose of this waste. Until fireworks become less harmful to the environment and yourself, you should choose selectively to make a difference. You also should consider minimizing your use of non-friendly fireworks.

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    Planning Your Display

    To make the smallest impact possible, follow these simple steps.

    1. Plan to have your fireworks display in one area of your yard. This will make the clean up easier, because the litter will be isolated.
    2. Make sure you clean up the mess as soon as the show is over. This will reduce the amount of chemical dust and ash that gets blown or washed away.
    3. You can enjoy a local firework show instead of hosting your own. Having one less show in a community is an easy way to reduce pollution.
    4. Get involved in creating the local show instead of hosting your own. This way, you not only are eliminating one show in your community, you can also help guide your area into buying eco-friendly fireworks!

    Fireworks have evolved over the decades to be less harmful and more beautiful. Depriving yourself from the experience isn't always the best response, rather, participate in actively cleaning up your community!

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