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The American Pyrotechnics Association, estimates that 18,000 fireworks shows will occur across the U.S. this Fourth of July. This does not include backyard fireworks which have seen a tremendous growth in sales. Since 2000, the sales of backyard fireworks have doubled resulting in over 238 million pounds of fireworks being fired off each year.
While these fireworks help put on a dazzling and patriotic show, there is a negative impact from their use. Fireworks are propelled by black powder, also known as gunpowder. This substance consists of an oxidizer (potassium nitrate), a fuel (carbon), and an accelerant (sulfur). For every 270 grams of black powder used, 132 grams of carbon dioxide are created, the rest of it turning into potassium sulfide and nitrogen. It is estimated that the annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fireworks is 60,340 tons or the same emissions from 12,000 cars on the road for a year.
The good news is that teams of researchers are looking into new formulas that use nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose instead of the toxic materials found in most fireworks today. The new formulas produce less smoke and cut way down on the need for toxic heavy metals used for the bright colors.