Colours of Hazard

Colours of Hazard

Chemicals compounds used as colourants in fireworks, and their impact on health.

Blazing Reds Lithium Compounds Toxic, irritating fumes when burnt
Glittering Greens Barium Nitrate Can irritate respiratory tract, have possible radioactive fallout
Brilliant Whites Aluminium Contact dermatitis, bio-accumulation
Blues Copper Compounds Cancer risk, bio-accumulation
Glitters Effects Antimony sulphide Toxic smoke, possible carcinogen


Sulphur Dioxide Acid rain
Potassium Nitrate Carcinogenic, toxic dust
Ammonium / Potassium Perchlorate Contaminate ground water, may cause thyroid problems
Lead Dioxide / Nitrate / Chloride Development danger for unborn children, poisonous
Mercury Toxic heavy metal, bio-accumulation
Nitric Oxide Toxic, if inhaled
Nitrogen Dioxide Highly toxic, if inhaled
Ozone Greenhouse Gas
Strontium Compounds Can replace calcium in body, toxic

How a specific exploding firework performs depends on how its four primary ingredients – oxidizer, fuel, colouring agents, and binder – combine.

Burning requires oxygen – the oxidisers in fireworks are chemicals that release oxygen to allow the explosion to take place. Nitrates, chlorates and perchlorates are used most commonly.

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