Building a Better Firework

Ancient Chinese Firework Rocket

The Fourth of July is a holiday famous for parades, back-yard barbecue and fireworks. What could be more wholesome, festive and fun? Well, maybe a little less pollution from the fireworks would be nice.

Chemical compounds called perchlorates provide the propellant and explosive qualities in most fireworks produced today. As well as providing the whoosh and boom in fireworks perchlorates contaminate groundwater and interfere with the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland regulates the metabolism in adults and helps control growth in children. Thanks to the work of a Los Alamos based DMD Systems, LLC there is a new option in fireworks, with greatly reduced perchlorates.

DMD Systems, LLC produces a fireworks that use nitrocellulose as an oxidizer (whoosh and boom) instead of perchlorate. Nitrocellulose, which is also used to make smokeless gunpowder, does not have the thyroid disrupting effects of perchlorates. As well it produces a cleaner, low-smoke firework, requiring fewer of the chemicals that provide the colors and sparks.

Why isn't nitrocellulose used more widely? Simply, fireworks made with nitrocellulose are more expensive than Chinese-made fireworks made with perchlorate. Given the detrimental health effects of perchlorate, paying a higher price initially could be cheaper in the long run. Have a happy Independence Day, enjoy the fireworks and hopefully freedom from perchlorates.

More Info:

S.Fe New Mexican: LANL spinoff company makes pyrotechnics friendlier to environment

Environmental Science & Technology: Perchlorate Behavior in a Municipal Lake Following Fireworks Displays

DMD Systems, LLC / Angel Fire Pyrotechnics

Wikipedia: Perchlorate

Wikipedia: Nitrocellulose