It's a familiar sound sizzling through the air—a boom slowly fading to a crackle when the centrifugal force is at its pinnacle. It's the sound of a firework and it is the trademark of the recently celebrated holiday, Fourth of July.
America's day of independence can only be done correctly with the glow of fireworks country-wide, right?
Sadly, some studies show a negative consequence of the holiday practice, as the use of fireworks in large quantities can have significant affects on human health and the environment. This combination of charcoal, sulfur fuel and most commonly used potassium nitrate create gunpowder, which is the chemical that allows the fireworks to move at such a rapid pace. Although seemingly harmless and entertaining, this montage of shots across the sky creates ash and debris that trickles down into our soil and water.
Not only does it affect our surroundings, but as environmental writer Russell McLendon stated in an article on the Mother Nature Network, "The rockets' red glare during a fireworks show can fill onlookers with patriotism and awe. Unfortunately, it can also fill them with particulates and aluminum."
Each color of firework uses different chemicals, some worse than others, but McLendon goes into detail in his article alluding to each color and its effects on the environment.
For example, rubidium is the chemical to help fireworks burn a fluorescent purple color and is said to not have a large effect on the environment, claiming it is one of the more safe hues to use. On the other hand, strontium is used to help the fireworks burn red. This metal is said to be "extremely reactive with both water and air" and also has tendencies to be radioactive. If used in high doses it can be very dangerous to human health.
Other elements used can damage certain parts of the body or environment such as the lungs with cadmium, a chemical which creates various colors, or copper that creates a blue shade of firework can cause skin issues when heavily used.
Although firework shows are usually only prevalent during Fourth of July, these chemicals and toxins that are sprayed over the soil, lakes, and bays around the country are hard to break down and decompose over long periods of time.
Smaller amount of fireworks are said to still create pollution in the air, but it can dissipate over a shorter time frame and propose less of a problem than fireworks used in excess. The only major concern here would be someone with lung diseases, such as asthma, where breathing in large amounts of smoke can trigger a negative reaction. McLendon claims that this cloud of pollution can linger after a fireworks show for up to three hours before it fully disappears, restoring the air quality to normal again.
In no way is this to put a damper on the fun and games involved in the celebration of large events such as America's independence. However, we should think before we shoot a superfluous amount of fire, crackling rockets into the sky, in order to preserve a higher quality of everyday environmental health.
Annie Blackwood is a rising junior in communication studies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.