[lit-ideas] Re: 4th of July

  • From: Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 06 Jul 2009 15:45:40 -0400

So much for sitting dazzled under the blasts, feathered by falling ash. Time to get safe. Real safe. Safe. Ummm! Can boring be safe for long? Boring's gotta be bad too.

Bombs bursting in air: What's in those Fourth of July fireworks, anyway?
By Katherine Harmon in 60-Second Science Blog

Red, white and blue aside, how green will this weekend’s firework festivities be? Not very, argue some.

The dazzling displays owe their colors to traces of metal compounds: strontium for red, aluminum or magnesium for white, copper for blue and barium for green.

What happens when these chemicals come raining down on rivers, lakes and people? “Everyone at or downwind of a pyrotechnic display is getting subjected to levels of these metals that aren’t natural,” Los Alamos Natural Laboratory chemist David Chavez recently told Discovery News.

Waterways, often selected as launching sties to help decrease fire risk, show a spike in perchlorates (up from .08 to 44.2 micrograms per liter) after Fourth of July, a 2007 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found. Perchlorates, which are used to help the fireworks’ fuel burn, were named in an EPA health advisory earlier this year (which recommended a maximum of 15 micrograms per liter of drinking water), as they have been linked to disruption of the thyroid gland.

Not to rain on your patriotic parade plans any more, but you can’t count on recycling the smoky remnants either: “Fireworks after they’re shot off are usually pretty dirty,” a policy analyst for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Researchers still don’t know exactly what—if any—lasting ill effects fireworks may have on the Earth or the body. If anything, the biggest health concerns remain the same: choking on smoke and blasting off a finger. So set off—or observe—those fireworks with caution.

More at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=bombs-bursting-in-air-whats-in-thos-2009-07-03

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