Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

Oh, we have been celebrating  Deepavali with fun and happiness minus fireworks for the past several years!

Before somebody asks me 'How can there be fun without fireworks?', I want to add I had fun because I  didn't contribute to the pollution. I didn't send out a toxic concoction into the atmosphere that rains down heavily into lakes, rivers, seas, fields and houses. I am not responsible for someone developing hypothyroidism, anemia or cancer. And I am extremely happy because of this!

Fireworks get their flamboyance from a variety of chemicals, many of which are toxic to humans. From the gunpowder that fuels their flight to the metallic compounds that color their explosions, fireworks often contain carcinogenic or hormone-disrupting substances that can seep into soil and water, not to mention the lung-clogging smoke they release and plastic debris they scatter.

All most all the major cities in India that have measured Deepavali festival-raised pollution levels recently sounded alarm bells.

Some people justify their acts of using fireworks by saying that these harmful gases released into the atmosphere actually kill mosquitoes and other harmful insects! But these insects might already have developed resistance to these chemicals. Moreover, if they are harmful to some living beings, they would equally be harmful to the other ones too!

First the ever evolving fireworks tempt you and make you buy them  at sky-rocketing prices causing distress to your earning loved ones.

Fire accidents are quite common during this festival. The flying fire bits also get into unprotected eyes and burn eye parts, especially the cornea leading to blindness.

Apart from causing agony to the animal life, the loud noises also increase hearing distress and the toxic smoke released into the atmosphere  can get lodged in people's lungs and enhance  asthmatic symptoms and  severe breathing problems in human beings. Anybody considering him/her-self environmentally conscious and responsible will never go anywhere near these fireworks as they pose a serious environmental and health danger from heavy metals and other toxic firework fallout.

Now let us see in detail what the fireworks contain and how they cause inconvenience to living beings.

For the color effect of fireworks, toxic heavy metals like barium, aluminum, lead, mercury salts, antimony, copper, and strontium can be used in firework compositions. Outdated heavy metals that have been used in the past include rubidium and cadmium. Some toxic elements are supposedly not used in fireworks anymore like lead compounds, chlorates, and mercury as mercurous chloride (calomel) but some firework chemical outlets still sell some of these ingredients and they can still be seen in some pyrotechnic chemical lists.

The Toxic Elements of Fireworks

Toxic Element Fireworks Usage

Toxic Effect of Fallout Dust &


Aluminum brilliant whites

Contact dermatitis, bioaccumulation

Antimony sulfide glitter effects

Toxic smoke, possible carcinogen

Arsenic compounds Used as colorants.

Toxic ash can cause lung cancer, skin

irritation and wart formation.

Barium Nitrate glittering greens

Poisonous. Fumes can irritate

respiratory tract.

Possible radioactive fallout.

Copper compounds blues

Polychlorinated dioxins and


Can bioaccumulate. Cancer risk.

Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) Use was supposed to be banned globally.

Persistent environmental toxin. Is a

carcinogen, mutagen and a

reproductive hazard.

Lead Dioxide / Nitrate / Chloride oxidizer

Bioaccumulation, developmental

danger for kids & unborn babies,

may remain airborne for days,

poisonous to plants & animals.

Lithium compounds blazing reds

Toxic and irritating fumes when


Mercury (Mercurous chloride) chlorine donor

Toxic heavy metal. Can


Nitric oxide fireworks byproduct

Toxic by inhalation. Is a free


Nitrogen dioxide fireworks byproduct

Highly toxic by inhalation.

SIDS risk.

Ozone fireworks byproduct

Greenhouse gas that attacks &

irritates lungs.

Perchlorate -
Ammonium & Potassium
propellant / oxidizer

Can contaminate ground & surface

waters, can cause thyroid

problems in humans & animals.

Potassium Nitrate in black powder

Toxic dusts, carcinogenic

sulfur-coal compounds.

Strontium compounds blazing reds

Can replace calcium in body.

Strontium chloride is slightly


Sulfur Dioxide gaseous byproduct of sulfur combustion

Acid rain from sulphuric acid affects

water sources, vegetation & causes

property damage. SIDS risk

Apart from these, there are also Cadmium compounds which effect lungs, digestive system and some of these are  known human carcinogens. Breathing high levels of cadmium can seriously damage the lungs, and consuming it can fluster the stomach, often resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term exposure can lead to kidney disease, lung damage and fragile bones.

Rubidium used for purple colour displays  can cause skin irritation since it's so reactive with moisture, and it's moderately toxic when ingested, reportedly able to replace calcium in bones.

Antimony sulphide used to get various colour displays can also cause lung cancer apart from bronchitis.

Some of the over enthusiasts say, "We enjoy for just one day. What is the big deal?" But the chemicals don't disappear after Diwali night. They still stay in our environment for days effecting all of us! Many of the chemicals in fireworks are persistent in the environment, meaning they stubbornly sit there instead of breaking down.

A recent study of lake water in a town in the US before and after annual fireworks displays found that the perchlorate concentration in the water increased by up to a factor of 1,000 in the hours after the show, exceeding several states' maximum allowable levels for drinking water. The levels took between 20 and 80 days to return to normal. Although much of the perchlorate present in pyrotechnic devices is transformed into harmless compounds during combustion, any remnants of the chemical that fall back to earth can enter into the soil and water. When ingested, perchlorate is absorbed by the thyroid gland in place of iodine, which can interfere with the production of thyroid hormone (and can cause hypothyroidism), an essential part of metabolism and mental development. As a result, perchlorate exposure may be particularly harmful to featuses. Perchlorates have also been shown to cause thyroid cancer in rats and mice, but scientists believe humans are less vulnerable to this effect.

Another study found that barium levels in the air increased 1,000 times after a fireworks-heavy Diwali festival in India and stayed there for at least seven days.

If you really want to spend some good time how about going for laser works, electronic fireworks display lamps and pyrotectics?

Think about this folks.

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