Colours of Hazard

Colours of Hazard

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

Blazing RedsLithium CompoundsToxic, irritating fumes when burnt
Glittering GreensBarium NitrateCan irritate respiratory tract, have possible radioactive fallout
Brilliant WhitesAluminiumContact dermatitis, bio-accumulation
BluesCopper CompoundsCancer risk, bio-accumulation
Glitters EffectsAntimony sulphideToxic smoke, possible carcinogen


Sulphur DioxideAcid rain
Potassium NitrateCarcinogenic, toxic dust
Ammonium / Potassium PerchlorateContaminate ground water, may cause thyroid problems
Lead Dioxide / Nitrate / ChlorideDevelopment danger for unborn children, poisonous
MercuryToxic heavy metal, bio-accumulation
Nitric OxideToxic, if inhaled
Nitrogen DioxideHighly toxic, if inhaled
OzoneGreenhouse Gas
Strontium CompoundsCan 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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