Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Science

Working Towards an Eco-Friendly Fireworks Display 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the patriotism-through-making-things-explode dept.
phobos13013 writes "Here's an article just in time for 4th of July fireworks shows! The ACS's Chemical and Engineering News provides a fairly technical discussion about the hazardous chemicals in modern fireworks displays. Perchlorate is currently the oxidizer of choice in fireworks, but it is also known to be a thyroid blocker. Since perchlorates are water-soluble anions, they dissolve into groundwater quickly. A study performed last summer over a lake in Ada, Oklahoma showed that less than a day after a fireworks display, the lake's chlorate levels jumped by a factor of 1,000. It took weeks for the levels to drop back down to their baseline. On the other hand, heavy metals are used to produce the pretty colors typically associated with the best fireworks. The trend is to start using nitrogen-based oxidizing fireworks; they produce less smoke, which means a smaller amount of colorizing agents can be used in displays."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Working Towards an Eco-Friendly Fireworks Display

Comments Filter:
  • Really? (Score:4, Funny)

    by NuclearError (1256172) on Friday July 04, 2008 @09:49PM (#24063445)
    Just in time? I just finished burning all of my fireworks. Maybe in time for next year...
  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday July 04, 2008 @09:58PM (#24063485)
    Fireworks drive away evil spirits, so, you know, really, the more poisonous the better.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by antirelic (1030688)

      Just in... military works towards real intelligence...

      The only real eco friendly fireworks are the ones that we dont use. Seriously, celebrating indepd

  • *pout* (Score:5, Funny)

    by Perseid (660451) on Friday July 04, 2008 @10:05PM (#24063507)
    But if they can only set off green fireworks that'll make for a pretty boring show.
    • Re:*pout* (Score:5, Funny)

      by the_other_one (178565) on Friday July 04, 2008 @10:40PM (#24063651) Homepage

      Several hundred acres of burning rain forest would be pretty exciting.

    • by EmagGeek (574360)

      I think amber is also going to be a color option...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ConceptJunkie (24823)

      But green's my favorite color!

      Actually I'm really enjoying the new innovations that don't have to do with color. Every year at the fireworks display at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, VA near where I live they usually show a new concept. One year was the rocket that bursts in a ring. Then they made a smiley face using two blue dots for eyes and several pink dots for a mouth inside the circle. Then they came up with a circle with a heart in it and last night they had rockets that burst in a star pattern. The

  • by kunwon1 (795332) * <dave.j.moore@gmail.com> on Friday July 04, 2008 @10:12PM (#24063535) Homepage
    They want to get rid of fireworks completely because they scare dogs [helpinganimals.com].
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by rubycodez (864176)

      PETA activists need therapy. rubbing them with bacon and putting them in a room with junkyard dogs would do wonders for their attitude on dog rights

    • They want to get rid of fireworks completely because they scare dogs [helpinganimals.com].

      Melatonin apparently works as a cheap tranquilizer for dogs. It doesn't make the dog sleepy as it does humans, just calms them down. And dosage is not much a problem as the lethal dose is several hundred times the effective dose.

    • by DeadChobi (740395) <DeadChobi@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Saturday July 05, 2008 @12:42AM (#24064089)

      The only reason that activist is bothered by it is because she doesn't like fireworks. She had no problems with vacuuming, even though that's another loud noise that her dog doesn't like.

    • While I don't agree that fireworks need to be done away with, it is true that dogs (and most animals for that matter) are frightened by fireworks, both the professional fireworks displays and the smaller variety that people set off in their neighbourhoods*. A few years ago on the Fourth of July, while driving down home from a fireworks display, a dog, frightened by other fireworks displays, jumped in front of a car in the next lane. The result was displeasing to all parties present (especially the dog). For

    • by GXTi (635121)
      As mentioned in the link, thunder is a much bigger problem. I demand that PETA immediately notify God to cease and desist from all stormy weather.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Friday July 04, 2008 @10:25PM (#24063597)
    Jeez: perchlorate causes thyroid problems.... Well don't eat the firework and don't inhale the gases.

    How about **watching** the fireworks instead? Yeah I know that's an outlandish idea, but try it some time... you see all these pretty patterns!

    Compared to all the tailpipe emissions of people driving to the firework display, the chemicals used on the lawns they are sitting on, the peroxide the "blonds" all used to bleach their hair etc etc, the chemicals in the actual fireworks are insignificant.

    • Frankly, in that area of Oklahoma, they should first crack down on residents running their sewer pipes directly into the streams, THEN worry about things like fireworks.
    • by turtledawn (149719) on Friday July 04, 2008 @10:32PM (#24063627)

      TFineA addresses this issue: the company they profile currently makes most of their sales to Vegas shows, professional wrestling events, and rock concerts, where you do in fact have people in a confined space breathing the fumes and exposed to particulates night after night after night. The other big market is the military, for signal flares and training aids. Again, fairly regular exposure.

      In all, some interesting chemistry.

      • by pallmall1 (882819)

        TFineA addresses this issue: the company they profile currently makes most of their sales to Vegas shows, professional wrestling events, and rock concerts, where you do in fact have people in a confined space breathing the fumes and exposed to particulates night after night after night.

        Wow, they have lakes in those confined spaces?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by toddestan (632714)

          Wow, they have lakes in those confined spaces?

          You've obviously never been to Vegas.

          • by linzeal (197905)
            He ain't missing as much as most people who have been to Vegas, namely money and STDs. It is an overpriced gaudy abortion of a town and everyone there tries to fuck you one way or another.
      • by shpoffo (114124)

        Agreed that, for those with regular exposure, cutting the perchlorate is a good idea...... let's just not pass off these low-end fireworks for the more intermittent ~ and memorable ~ celebrations. If you're seeing a fireworks show every night because of your job or your wealth then you don't need the tops.

        Let's not ruin fireworks displays for everyone by lessening the impact caused by extravagance or military need. ...and as someone said below, we need the good stuff to scare away the yearly spirits..... ;

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phobos13013 (813040)
      Great idea to avoid exposure, except that it doesnt address the issue pointed out IN THE SUMMARY, that says the endocrine disrupters are getting into THE WATER SUPPLY. If you go swimming in that lake they shoot your fireworks over even a week after the event, you are being exposed to very high doses! Unless of course you live in a county where your environmental regulator has said it is not acceptable use as recreational water source, which is evidence of the symptom itself. Also, many of the drinking wa
      • by hardburn (141468)

        Heavy metals can be addressed by a simple carbon filter, which isn't going to add anything to the water except maybe some extra carbon. Perchlorate needs a reverse osmosis setup, which is more complicated, but it shouldn't add much to the water, either.

    • Jeez: perchlorate causes thyroid problems.... Well don't eat the firework and don't inhale the gases.

      How about **watching** the fireworks instead

      Fine - I'll watch them, not without remembering that there are many places in the world where people manufacture fireworks with their bare hands, and are in direct contact with the aforementioned toxic materials. Thank you for your kind interest.

    • DONT eat my fireworks?!

      BRILLIANT!

    • by westyvw (653833)

      Jeez: perchlorate causes thyroid problems.... Well don't eat the firework and don't inhale the gases.

      Well we dont eat the fireworks, but there is no excaping the gases in my town. Its literally like a dense fog all over the city, possibly county, tonight. Amazing really, but there is no avoiding the smoke unless you stay inside, but then guess what? You cant see them.

  • I wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by spydabyte (1032538)
    ...if these levels are affected by the show I just saw.
    I'm currently in Barcelona, Spain and witnessed the best July 4th Fireworks show I have ever seen, including any Disney display.

    But the most relevant part was that they shot fireworks off the pier into the mar, sea, which exploded off of the water, something I doubt they would do in America...
    • > But the most relevant part was that they shot fireworks off the pier into the mar, sea,
      > which exploded off of the water, something I doubt they would do in America...

      Why do you say that?

    • by rm999 (775449)

      Most fireworks shows I know of in the USA happen from land over water. Why do you say you doubt they would do that?

      At Disney World I know they shoot the fireworks from either on land or near land over the water.

    • Well, just so you know, they do set fireworks off over the ocean in America.

      In California, at Point Arena, they blast them off of the public pier, and in Fort Bragg, they shoot them off of the bluff top and right into the Pacific Ocean.

      Oh, and they pollute the ocean with toxic chemicals from the abandoned lumber mill around here also.

      It's the American way after-all.

      • by Ritchie70 (860516)

        And in Chicago they shoot them off over Lake Michigan.

        In Peoria, they shoot them off over the Illinois River.

        In fact, most places strongly prefer to shoot fireworks off over water - because there is no chance of catching the water on fire.

        Now, if they were somehow bouncing them off the water, that would be something unusual and definitely something worth seeing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by chromatic (9471)

          In fact, most places strongly prefer to shoot fireworks off over water - because there is no chance of catching the water on fire.

          Not Cleveland, then?

    • But the most relevant part was that they shot fireworks off the pier into the mar, sea, which exploded off of the water, something I doubt they would do in America...

      In New york, the fireworks display is directly on the East River. It used to be on the Hudson River.

    • Re:I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by capnkr (1153623) on Saturday July 05, 2008 @12:52AM (#24064137)
      I live aboard a boat in America, and watched them shot off over water from my dock tonight. It's neat, the reflections...

      I'm glad that some folks think of things like in TFA, but at the same time - some things should just be left pretty much as they are. Though the levels in that lake may have risen to 1000 times normal (and one of the sampling sites was next to and between the "Ignition site"), they were back to normal in 20-80 days:

      After the fireworks displays, perchlorate concentrations decreased toward the background level within 20 to 80 days, with the rate of attenuation correlating to surface water temperature. Adsorption tests indicate that sediments underlying the water column have limited (~100 nmol/g) capacity to remove perchlorate via chemical adsorption. Microcosms showed comparatively rapid intrinsic perchlorate degradation in the absence of nitrate consistent with the observed disappearance of perchlorate from the study site. This suggests that at sites with appropriate biogeochemical conditions, natural attenuation may be an important factor affecting the fate of perchlorate following fireworks displays.

      Some things are worth a little danger, and thus also a little caution, or life wouldn't be so much fun...
    • But the most relevant part was that they shot fireworks off the pier into the mar, sea, which exploded off of the water, something I doubt they would do in America...

      I have never seen a show where the fireworks, the things that are usually shot off of boats into the sky above water to explode, were shot horizontally to fall into the sea and exploded on, literally on, the water.

      Every reply says they shoot the fireworks off of the water, yes they do, but they don't explode on the water in America.
      Is that more clear?

      I just doubt with all the law suits and safety guidelines in the US, along with studies like this, is why it would never happen.

      • by capnkr (1153623)
        While No, the projectiles are rarely (if ever?) shot off on horizontal trajectories here, I don't think that is because of the reasons you claim.

        More likely, says Occam, it is because if you shoot them *up*, then more people can see them - which is, after all, the fireworks raison d'etre... ;)
    • But the most relevant part was that they shot fireworks off the pier into the mar, sea, which exploded off of the water, something I doubt they would do in America...

      Ah, the famous /. reflexive America bashing. Fact is however that where water is available to shoot them over, it is virtually always done. (For safety and because the reflections on the water are lovely...) In the county where I live (which just misses being an island) every major show is over water, as are the majority of the smaller shows

  • Polluting the environment and fireworks are the two things America does best. Why do you hate us?
  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:14PM (#24063809) Journal
    A once a year, thousand times spike in a trace amount chemical, and it dissipates within a month? Let's get a little perspective? How many plastic water bottles and cigarette butts find their way into the same lake, and how long does it take them to dissipate? How much waste comes out of the nearest McDonald's location in a single day? From the nearest coal fired power plant? There are bigger problems to deal with than a dubious annual spike in a trace chemical.
    • by phobos13013 (813040) on Friday July 04, 2008 @11:19PM (#24063819)
      You create a false dichotomy between dealing with this problem and dealing with the others. Fact is, we don't deal with any of the problems to any significant extent. I say we tackle all these problems simultaneously why choose one then the other, etc. And to boot, this article suggests a practical option that exists now, which is switching the way we produce fireworks today!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      There are bigger problems to deal with than a dubious annual spike in a trace chemical.

      How do you know? Maybe that once-a-month event has serious, long-term repercussions that we won't learn about for decades. Doesn't necessarily mean we have to stop, but we should either stop or make sure we don't need to stop :P

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FrostDust (1009075)
      So, you'd be ok if your town decided to annually fill your house with 1000 times the normal amount of chlorine gas, and you had to wait a month for it to dissipate? I mean, it's only once a year, right?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by konohitowa (220547)

        I think this illustrates the GPs point. Since typical indoor Cl2 levels tend to be in the PPT range and occupational hazard levels are capped by OSHA at 1 PPM, a 1000 time increase would still trend toward putting you within an "acceptable" limit for long term exposure (1PPM is roughly the exposure you get from going for a swim in a chlorinated pool).

        Now, if I had to put up with a 1000-fold increase in whining from my kids for a month, that would be another matter altogether.

    • A once a year, thousand times spike in a trace amount chemical, and it dissipates within a month? Let's get a little perspective

      From the perspective of single molecules, the level jumps from 0 to 100% whenever a molecule of said chemical is encountered, an infinite increase!

    • How many plastic water bottles... find their way into the same lake, and how long does it take them to dissipate?

      Doctor: You appear to have a very strange cylindrical lump in your thyroid gland.

      Patient: Oh my, is it serious?!

  • by CmdrPorno (115048)

    Just use CFLs. They're just as good as incandescents.

  • I just got back from shooting fireworks, by the lake that serves as the water source for where I live. Epic amounts of fireworks were set off near it also...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm all for being environmentally friendly and all, but green fireworks would get old after awhile.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nothing says "I love America" quite like cheap, toxic, Chinese fireworks. Don't bother cleaning up your litter either, I really like seeing that shit in the street in the middle of August.

  • i.e., explosives in the hands of non-experts, instead? It boggles the mind that in this safety-obsessed world it's still possible to randomly spray your general vicinity with things that go BOOM. In my observation, the kind of people who buy fireworks are often the ones who can't be trusted to be responsible with them. There's something about fireworks that turns normal people into pyromaniacs.

  • So... one part in a billion instead of one part in a trillion? How about discussing actual effects instead of using hyperbole?
    • by belg4mit (152620)

      It's a relative measure of effect rather than absolute; the latter of which would be of no benefit without a baseline.

      You have got to be the stupidest motherfucker on the planet if you don't get that; that's hyperbole.

  • Know what? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I just plum don't give a fuck.

  • I'm wondering whether some advanced LASER show wouldn't be more useful.

    I doubt though that anything like holograms could be easily used for this but who knows where we can get with the following

    http://www.media.mit.edu/spi/holoVideoAll.htm [mit.edu]

    What I like about this is the idea that it doesn't have to be perfect for a fireworks display so the technology should be usable early on, and any artifacts could be declared special effects.

    The problem will be that high powered lasers will be needed to get the same effect

  • What about the negative impact of excess Nitrogen in water tables. Most people have heard about farms being a source of pollution, leading to eutrophication of ground water, algae blooms, fish kills, nasty smelling water, etc.

    The 1st limiting nutrient in most aquatic environments is Nitrogen. It's the Nitrogen in animal waste that is the problem for surface water. I'd need to see the effect of Nitrogen based fireworks on Nitrogen levels in the water before I jump on this bandwagon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by belg4mit (152620)

      This is *not* insightful (and I'm wasting my change to mod it overrated to try and correct it).

      1) Nitrogen is one of the most available chemicals on the planet.
      2) *Nitrates* are the biologically available form of nitrogen.
      3) Farmers dump hundreds of pounds to tons of fertilizer on their fields; depending on crop, soil, etc.
      4) As far as I can tell, nitrates are not a major combustion product of nitrocellulose. You can get some
      nitrogen dioxide as a seconday byproduct [aiaa.org], but no more so than

      • by belg4mit (152620)

        Technically that's 2 NO2 <-> N2O4, although it's heavily weighted to the right under STP.

      • The article is about pollution of water by fireworks. Nitrogen pollution is a legitimate concern. I'm not expecting it to be a problem, especially since most states have laws preventing the ownership of fireworks by ordinary citizens, and city/county/state governments tend to only set them off on the 4th and New Years. However, I do think it needs to be looked at before anyone goes passing legislation on the issue.

        1. Just because their is a lot of N available, doesn't mean that it can't be limiting gr
        • by belg4mit (152620)

          >1. Just because their is a lot of N available, doesn't mean that it can't be limiting growth if all of the
          >2. I was not speaking to the form of the N in the water, only to it's presence. I'm not an explosives expert,
          But its mere presence is of no importance, the form matters. It's as if most of the carbon in soil were locked
          up as diamond dust, and one were concerned about the effects siltation would have on the propagation of lillypads when life has no use for that compound. http://en.wikipedia.org/w [wikipedia.org]

          • Perhaps. I resented the implication that any attempt to be greener must be a double-edged sword.

            I was not trying to imply anything of the sort. I think that many people would agree that the reason we need to be concerned about the environment now is because as technology, society, production (both food and engineered products) advanced no one thought to check as to the implications of the changes they were making would have in advance.

            EVERY time you make a change in the way things are done it is necess

  • Ada, Oklahoma (Score:2, Informative)

    by custerfluck (888788)
    For the record, the fireworks sucked this year in Ada.
  • And it's prob the same company, the same study and the same SMALL pond. Being broke has some advantages, (not really, but work with me) I can't get in trouble (yet) for reading rec.pyrotechnics, nor can I get in trouble for making my own fireworks, but I did read about this goofy study last year or so.

  • Green...? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by areusche (1297613)
    Alright, I'm cool with 100+ mpg cars, low-yield nuclear reactions, hydrogen, and treeless paper. But on the 4th of July I do not want anything ruining my ability to launch of cardboard, gunpowder filled explosives into the atmosphere. Now that I think about it when I drive around at night on July 4th it is always hazy with a cool mist. Grand explosives that are illegal in my municipality and state that are launched off anyway because I don't really care are the whole reason why the Fourth of July is one o

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.

Working...