American Independence Day is all about celebrating the values our country holds most dear. And it’s a holiday that we usually celebrate with fireworks in remembrance of the American Revolution.
However, how harmful are gusts of gunpowder and combustible chemicals each Fourth of July on the environment? According to a study by Environmental Science and Technology, fireworks spread perchlorate (a chemical that damages the thyroid gland), contaminating of surrounding water bodies. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studied a lake in Oklahoma and found that within 14 hours of the fireworks display, perchlorate levels were 1000 times higher than before. Pollutants’ hazardous power are only heightened by high humidity levels and smog, which are especially prevalent at East Coast celebrations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City.
Further development and research into compressed air technology and non-heavy metal products could green up those colorful bursts of flames. Even some major corporations are keeping the environment in mind for their light shows. The Walt Disney Company, whose theme parks use fireworks nearly everyday of the year, has implemented cleaner fireworks technology, using compressed air to lift fireworks, almost eliminating the need for smoke-producing black powder and other materials at launch, significantly reducing ground-level smoke and noise while continuing to provide an entertaining show.
Sure, fireworks are pretty, but how much are they worth the cost of poorer air and water? Cleaner fireworks can make this time-honored tradition safer for us all.