In commemoration of the birth of the Declaration of Independence this fourth of July, you can be conscious and reduce the amount of excess perchlorate (a harmful, fuming toxic liquid found in explosives) by using eco-friendly fireworks.

According to an article on LiveScience, Roman candles and roadside flares typically use potassium perchlorate to speed up the fuel-burning process that drives them. As they burn, they should consume most of the perchlorate, but sometimes the reaction snuffs out before all the fuel is consumed, leaving behind some of the chemical. Excess perchlorate is also sometimes added to pyrotechnics.

These leftovers can be a problem because they inhibit the working of the thyroid gland, which produces a key hormone in the human body.

In a study done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007, the perchlorate levels were measured in a nearby lake in Oaklahoma where annual fourth of July fireworks were held. After fourteen hours of display, they found that the perchlorate levels in the water were 1,000 times higher than normal.

Chemists are trying to reformulate these harmful explosives by using compounds with a high nitrogen content in order to supply the energy that drives the burning reaction. Thus, supplying all that energy from breaking nitrogen bonds means that less perchlorate is needed to make those burning shapes in the sky.

Less perchlorate=less smoke=healthier environment

A compound called nitrocellulose is contained in new fireworks, which removes the need for perchlorate to light up the skies.

“Nitrocellulose is probably one of the best low-smoke ingredients,” Darren Naud of DMD Systems told Chemical & Engineering News. “It burns with little smoke, and there’s no fallout or residual combustion by-products that are nasty. There’s just [carbon dioxide], water and nitrogen.”

Now let’s go celebrate.

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