Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Pyrotechnic pollutants

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

I have written in the past about hazards caused by things we launch into the air, such as helium balloons (PJ 2009;282:627) and sky lanterns (PJ 2011;287:621).

At this time of year, as we celebrate Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night and Diwali, we also pollute the atmosphere with firework displays. These can produce alarming levels of air pollution that break safety limits and lead to health problems such as asthma.

Pyrotechnic products contain a wide range of chemicals. They include propellants, oxidisers, colour-producing compounds and chlorine donors (used to strengthen flame colours).

The propellant fuel is usually black powder, containing sulphur, charcoal and potassium nitrate. Oxidisers include nitrates, chlorates and perchlorates.

Zinc is used for smoke effects and other metals provide the colours: strontium or lithium for red; calcium for orange; sodium for yellow; barium for green; copper for blue; caesium for indigo;potassium or rubidium for violet; and aluminium, beryllium, magnesium or titanium for white.

When fireworks burn or explode they shoot out noxious gases, such as oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, and tiny particles of solids, all in levels greater than those produced by traffic exhausts. From the largest cake fireworks down to the tiniest indoor sparklers, they all cause similar air pollution. And the bonfires on which we burn effigies of Guy Fawkes only add to the problem.

Researchers at King’s College London and the University of Birmingham have shown that firework events can lead to concentrations of particulate matter that exceed air pollution safety limits set by the EU. Their study, reported in Environmental Science & Technology in 2010, also identified worrying health risks. Because the particles are microscopic, they are inhaled deep into the lungs, where they can trigger respiratory and cardiovascular health problems.

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

From: Beyond pharmacy blog

Take a look here for thoughts and musings beyond the pharmacy realm

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.