Pollution levels to fall with new approach to fireworks production

Researchers are finding new ways to reduce the environmental impact of fireworks without affecting their performance, according to the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).

Fireworks are a significant cause of short-term, localised air pollution consisting of sulfur dioxide and fine particles of potentially toxic metallic elements such as potassium, magnesium, barium, copper and aluminium.

Studies have shown that fireworks displays at festivals like Diwali (festival of lights) can increase air pollutants by nearly six times and the Lantern Festival in China by a similar level.

Another study in Eastern Spain (mascletàs) has recorded increases of firework generated fine particle pollutants in excess of 100 times normal levels.

However, research is underway to find a safer and greener firework, say IChemE.

According to the Institution, the solution is to reduce the particle size of the chemicals in the firework.

Researchers have found that fireworks made from the smaller nanoparticles require a reduced amount of chemicals to achieve the same performance, which results in less pollution.

Tests involving ‘cake bombs’ or ‘repeaters’ – one of most popular fireworks after ‘sparklers’ and ‘firecrackers’ – made from nanoparticles required just a quarter of the powder used in traditionally made fireworks. Other tests, involving firecrackers, have resulted in sulfur dioxide emissions being reduced by 61%.

IChemE chief executive David Brown said: “Fireworks are enjoyed all across the world, but it is easy to forget the hazardous nature of their production and the impact they can have on the environment, and on health and wellbeing.

“This new approach to the manufacture of fireworks using nanoparticles has some important advantages for the environment,” he added.

Leigh Stringer

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