Center for American Progress

It’s Easy Being Green: Independence from Polluting Fireworks
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It’s Easy Being Green: Independence from Polluting Fireworks

Fireworks that burn cleaner and produce less smoke could be shooting off in a neighborhood near you.

Customers purchase legal fireworks at a stand in Newark, CA, in preparation for the Fourth of July festivities. Eco-friendly fireworks are available for home use, but be sure to check your state laws on firework control before you buy and use them.
  (AP/Paul Sakuma)
Customers purchase legal fireworks at a stand in Newark, CA, in preparation for the Fourth of July festivities. Eco-friendly fireworks are available for home use, but be sure to check your state laws on firework control before you buy and use them.   (AP/Paul Sakuma)

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The combined effects of burning massive amounts of charcoal, using disposable plates, and launching millions of fireworks make the Fourth of July one of the year’s least environmentally friendly holidays. But you can reduce these effects by greening your BBQ and using cleaner fireworks.

Traditional firework displays can affect air and water quality. The potassium perchlorate used as an oxidizer in traditional fireworks has been found in the air for weeks after firework displays, and perchlorate has been found in lakes at concentrations 24 to 1,028 times its normal level. But perchlorate may be on the way out. The American Chemical Society announced last month that scientists have developed new pyrotechnic formulas that use nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose that burn cleaner and produce less smoke than traditional oxidizers.

The challenge for these new fireworks is to be cost competitive with traditional fireworks. It costs about twice as much to put on a display with low-smoke, perchlorate-free fireworks as it does with the inexpensive Chinese imports. However, imported fireworks are becoming less available because of high shipping costs and safety concerns with moving large amounts of explosives across the ocean, so the playing field could soon be leveled between them and the new perchlorate-free brands.

Eco-friendly fireworks are available for home use, but be sure to check your state laws on firework control before you buy and use them. Just because you can buy fireworks doesn’t mean they’re legal to set off. In some states it’s legal to purchase fireworks but unlawful to launch them.

If you want to forgo the legal concerns, the environmental damage, and the risk of personal injury, get a group of friends together to go see a local firework display. Those fireworks will be launched anyway and chances are it’s likely to be a bigger display than you could put on at home.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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