Sunshine, barbecue, and fireworks. Every American knows that these 3 elements are fundamental for a bonafide 4th of July. For those who are keen to the hazards of fireworks, however, this perfect American formula may lose some of its wholesome charm…but be not disappointed! Safe, non-toxic alternatives can serve as worthy substitutes to help celebrate our Independence Day.
The Downside to Traditional Fireworks
While the colorfully explosive nighttime fireworks shows are considered a mesmerizingly patriotic staple in this country, these chemically-charged performances pose scientifically proven health risks to their viewers.
Oxidizers- oxygren-rich chemical compounds most commonly known as nitrates, chlorates, and perchlorates -are the synthetic workhorses responsible for setting off the fireworks’ explosion; the compound potassium nitrate, for example, used to be the key ingredient in gunpowder. Unfortunately these same oxidizers are responsible for health hazards, with potassium perchlorate and barium nitrate coming under particularly high scrutiny from the EPA. According to the BBC:
“…perchlorate…can substitute for iodide in the thyroid gland, disrupting the production of hormones. It can also cause growth abnormalities in embryos.”
Barium, on the other hand, is linked to abnormalities in heart function as well as impaired and restrictive breathing.
In addition to the inherently toxic compounds present in fireworks, a recent research study reveals how dramatically our 4th of July firework events impact air pollution in the United States. Gathering data from more than 300 monitoring sites between 1999 and 2013, the research analyzed the amount of fine particulate matter– or the irritants responsible for respiratory illness, asthma, and cardiovascular disease -and concluded that air pollution spikes up 42% on July 4th.
Instead of abandoning fireworks altogether and succumbing to nighttime boredom with your children/loved ones, explore these sustainable alternatives and enjoy your worry-free 4th of July evening:
- Made from natural materials
- Reaches heights up to 2,000 ft
Be it the Eco Wishlantern or the more generic Eco-Friendly Sky Lantern, paper lanterns are a wonderful, chemical-free alternative to fireworks that create equally as beautiful a spectacle. Both of these products are made from a combination of rice paper, bamboo, and string, excluding the not-so-popular metal wires that made previous lanterns an environmental risk.
Steel Wool Sparklers
- Made with natural materials
- DIY craft
If you’re in need of eco-conscious sparklers and don’t mind undergoing a DIY craft session in the process, then steel wool sparklers are a stunning fit! Follow How To Make Firework’s instructions on creating this explosive wand, and don’t fret about tossing away the used materials: they’re naturally occurring metals that will merely produce rust.
Campfire or Fire Pit
- Made from natural materials
- No clean up
Craving the flame, but cautious about chemicals? Light up your backyard with a campfire (or set your fire pit aflame)! Keeping your city’s burning laws in mind, these concentrated fires are always satisfying — just remember to never burn plastics, metals, or wood doused chemicals. Crack open a cold drink and watch the sunset over the tall flames!
Of course the most eco-friendly fireworks alternative is no fireworks…but if family and friends compel you to go fireworks shopping this summer, try and sniff out the products free of hazardous oxidizers and non-biodegradable components. Celebrate responsibly — the environment will thank you for it!