Fireworks are a class of low explosive pyrotechnic devices used for
aesthetic and entertainment purposes. The most common use of a
firework is as part of a fireworks display (also called a fireworks
show or pyrotechnics), a display of the effects produced by firework
Fireworks competitions are also regularly held at a number of
Fireworks take many forms to produce the four primary effects: noise,
light, smoke, and floating materials (confetti for example). They may
be designed to burn with colored flames and sparks including red,
orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and silver. Displays are common
throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and
Fireworks were invented in medieval China in the 7th century to scare
away evil spirits, a natural application of gunpowder, one of the Four
Great Inventions of ancient China. Such important events and
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn
Moon Festival were
and still are times when fireworks are guaranteed sights. China is the
largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks in the world.
Fireworks are generally classified as to where they perform, either as
a ground or aerial firework. In the latter case they may provide their
own propulsion (skyrocket) or be shot into the air by a mortar (aerial
The firework display organized by Hanwah Company in Seoul.
The most common feature of fireworks is a paper or pasteboard tube or
casing filled with the combustible material, often pyrotechnic stars.
A number of these tubes or cases are often combined so as to make,
when kindled, a great variety of sparkling shapes, often variously
colored. The skyrocket is a common form of firework, although the
first skyrockets were used in warfare. The aerial shell, however, is
the backbone of today's commercial aerial display, and a smaller
version for consumer use is known as the festival ball in the United
States. Such rocket technology has also been used for the delivery of
mail by rocket and is used as propulsion for most model rockets.
4.1 PGI annual convention
Fireworks celebrations throughout the world
6.6 Monte-Carlo International
6.9 United Kingdom
6.10 United States
7 Uses other than public displays
8 Pyrotechnic compounds
8.1 Abstract reference of chemicals used in fireworks industry
9 Types of effects
9.10 Multi-break shells
9.11 Noise-related effects
9.15 Roman candle
9.18 Time Rain
10 Hazards and regulation
11 Government regulations around the world
11.4 European Union
11.4.5 Republic of Ireland
11.4.7 United Kingdom
11.6 New Zealand
11.8 United States
13 External links
14 Further reading
An illustration of a fireworks display from the 1628-1643 edition of
Ming Dynasty novel Jin Ping Mei.
An etching of the Royal
Fireworks display on the Thames, London,
England in 1749.
An 18th-century illustration of Chinese fireworks from an English
abstract of an account of China by French Jesuit Pierre Nicolas
A firework display for Muḥammad Sháh, portrayed seated and leaning
against a bolster.
History of gunpowder
History of gunpowder and Four Great Inventions
Preparing fireworks at
Sayn Castle, Germany.
Two ignited Catherine wheels spinning during a traditional Maltese
A ground firework showing various technical parts mentioned in the
article, such as the chain and a set of gears.
The grand finale showing also the jets that produce power. A picture
taken from the back so the stars and flowers are not so clearly
The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century
medieval Chinese Tang Dynasty, where they were invented. The fireworks
were used to accompany many festivities. It is thus a part of the
culture of China and had its origin there; eventually it spread to
other cultures and societies. The art and science of firework
making has developed into an independent profession. In China,
pyrotechnicians were respected for their knowledge of complex
techniques in mounting firework displays. Chinese people originally
believed that the fireworks could expel evil spirits and bring about
luck and happiness.
Song Dynasty (960–1279), many of the common people could
purchase various kinds of fireworks from market vendors, and grand
displays of fireworks were also known to be held. In 1110, a large
fireworks display in a martial demonstration was held to entertain
Emperor Huizong of Song
Emperor Huizong of Song (r. 1100–1125) and his court. A record
from 1264 states that a rocket-propelled firework went off near the
Empress Dowager Gong Sheng and startled her during a feast held in her
honor by her son
Emperor Lizong of Song
Emperor Lizong of Song (r. 1224–1264). Rocket
propulsion was common in warfare, as evidenced by the Huolongjing
Liu Bowen (1311–1375) and
Jiao Yu (fl. c.
1350–1412). In 1240 the Arabs acquired knowledge of gunpowder and
its uses from China. A Syrian named Hasan al-Rammah wrote of rockets,
fireworks, and other incendiaries, using terms that suggested he
derived his knowledge from Chinese sources, such as his references to
fireworks as "Chinese flowers".
With the development of chinoiserie in Europe, Chinese fireworks began
to gain popularity around the mid-17th century. Lev Izmailov,
ambassador of Peter the Great, once reported from China: "They make
such fireworks that no one in
Europe has ever seen." In 1758, the
Jesuit missionary Pierre Nicolas le Chéron d'Incarville, living in
Beijing, wrote about the methods and composition on how to make many
types of Chinese fireworks to the
Paris Academy of Sciences, which
revealed and published the account five years later. His writings
would be translated in 1765, resulting in the popularization of
fireworks and further attempts to uncover the secrets of Chinese
Amédée-François Frézier published his revised work Traité des
feux d'artice pour le spectacle (Treatise on Fireworks) in 1747
(originally 1706), covering the recreational and ceremonial uses
of fireworks, rather than their military uses.
Music for the Royal Fireworks
Music for the Royal Fireworks was composed by George Frideric Handel
in 1749 to celebrate the Peace treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which had
been declared the previous year.
Improper use of fireworks may be dangerous, both to the person
operating them (risks of burns and wounds) and to bystanders; in
addition, they may start fires after landing on flammable material.
For this reason, the use of fireworks is generally legally
restricted.[where?] Display fireworks are restricted by law[where?]
for use by professionals; consumer items, available to the public, are
smaller versions containing limited amounts of explosive material to
reduce potential danger.
Fireworks are also a problem for animals, both domestic and wild,
which can be frightened by their noise, leading to them running away,
often into danger, or hurting themselves on fences or in other ways in
an attempt to escape.
Pyrotechnical competitions involving fireworks are held in many
countries. The most prestigious fireworks competition is the Montreal
Fireworks Festival, an annual competition held in Montreal, Quebec,
Canada. Another magnificent competition is Le Festival d'Art
Pyrotechnique held in the summer annually at the Bay of Cannes in
Côte d'Azur, France. The
World Pyro Olympics
World Pyro Olympics is an annual competition
amongst the top fireworks companies in the world. It is held in
Manila, Philippines. The event is one of the largest and most intense
international fireworks competitions.
Ground fireworks, although less popular than Aerial ones, create a
stunning exhibition. These types of fireworks can produce various
shapes, ranging from simple rotating circles, stars and 3D globes.
Enthusiasts in the
United States have formed clubs which unite
hobbyists and professionals. The groups provide safety instruction and
organize meetings and private "shoots" at remote premises where
members shoot commercial fireworks as well as fire pieces of their own
manufacture. Clubs secure permission to fire items otherwise banned by
state or local ordinances. Competition among members and between
clubs, demonstrating everything from single shells to elaborate
displays choreographed to music, are held. One of the oldest clubs is
Crackerjacks, Inc., organized in 1976 in the Eastern Seaboard
region of the U.S.
PGI annual convention
Pyrotechnics Guild International, Inc. or PGI, founded in
1969, is an independent worldwide nonprofit organization of amateur
and professional fireworks enthusiasts. It is notable for its large
number of members, around 3,500 in total. The PGI exists solely to
further the safe usage and enjoyment of both professional grade and
consumer grade fireworks while both advancing the art and craft of
pyrotechnics and preserving its historical aspects. Each August the
PGI conducts its annual week-long convention, where some the world's
biggest and best fireworks displays occur. Vendors, competitors, and
club members come from around the US and from various parts of the
globe to enjoy the show and to help out at this all-volunteer event.
Aside from the nightly firework shows, the competition is a highlight
of the convention. This is a completely unique event where individual
classes of hand-built fireworks are competitively judged, ranging from
simple fireworks rockets to extremely large and complex aerial shells.
Some of the biggest, best, most intricate fireworks displays in the
United States take place during the convention week.
Amateur and professional members can come to the convention to
purchase fireworks, paper goods, novelty items, non-explosive chemical
components and much more at the PGI trade show. Before the nightly
fireworks displays and competitions, club members have a chance to
enjoy open shooting of any and all legal consumer or professional
grade fireworks, as well as testing and display of hand-built
fireworks. The week ends with the Grand Public Display on Friday
night, which gives the chosen display company a chance to strut their
stuff in front of some of the world's biggest fireworks aficionados.
The stakes are high and much planning is put into the show. In 1994 a
shell of 36 inches (910 mm) in diameter was fired during the
convention, more than twice as large as the largest shell usually seen
in the US, and shells as large as 24 inches (610 mm) are
Both fireworks and firecrackers are a popular tradition during
Halloween in Vancouver, although apparently this is not the custom
elsewhere in Canada.
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland and
Northern Ireland there are many
fireworks displays, during the
Halloween season. The largest are in
the cities of Belfast, Derry, and Dublin. The 2010
fireworks attracted an audience of over 20,000 people. The sale of
fireworks is strongly restricted in the Republic of Ireland, though
many illegal fireworks are sold throughout October or smuggled from
Northern Ireland. In the Republic the maximum punishment for
possessing fireworks without a licence, or lighting fireworks in a
public place, is a €10,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.
Two firework displays on All Hallows' Eve in the
United States are the
annual "Happy Hallowishes" show at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Halloween Party" event, which began in 2005,
and the "
Halloween Screams" at
Disneyland Park, which began in 2009.
Fireworks celebrations throughout the world
In France, fireworks are traditionally displayed on the eve of
Bastille day (July 14) to commemorate the French revolution and the
storming of the Bastille on that same day in 1789. Every city in
France lights up the sky for the occasion with a special mention to
Paris that offers a spectacle around the Eiffel Tower.
Fireworks at the Danube
In Hungary fireworks are used on 20 August, which is a national
celebration day 
See also: Chocolate bomb
Indians throughout the world celebrate with fireworks as part of their
popular "festival of lights" (Diwali) in Oct-Nov every year.
Video: Extra Large Wide Starmine at the Nagaoka Festival Fireworks
During the summer in Japan, fireworks festivals (花火大会, hanabi
taikai) are held nearly everyday someplace in the country, in total
numbering more than 200 during August. The festivals consist of large
fireworks shows, the largest of which use between 100,000 and 120,000
rounds (Tondabayashi, Osaka), and can attract more than 800,000
spectators. Street vendors set up stalls to sell various drinks and
staple Japanese food (such as Yakisoba, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki,
kakigori (shaved ice)), and traditionally held festival games, such as
Kingyo-sukui, or Goldfish scooping.
Even today, men and women attend these events wearing the traditional
Yukata, summer Kimono, or
Jinbei (men only), collecting in large
social circles of family or friends to sit picnic-like, eating and
drinking, while watching the show.
The first fireworks festival in
Japan was held in 1733.
Fireworks at a Maltese festival in 2014
Fireworks have been used in Malta for hundreds of years. When the
islands were ruled by the Order of St John, fireworks were used on
special occasions such as the election of a new Grand Master, the
appointment of a new
Pope or the birth of a prince.
Nowadays, fireworks are used in village feasts throughout the summer.
The Malta International
Fireworks Festival is also held annually.
Pyrotechnics experts from around the world have competed in Monte
Carlo, Monaco since 1966. The festival runs from July to August every
year, and the winner returns in November 18 for the fireworks display
on the night before the
National Day of Monaco. The event is held
in Port Hercule, beginning at around 9:30pm every night, depending on
Fireworks Festival 2006, 8 August 2006
Singapore Fireworks Celebrations
Singapore Fireworks Celebrations (previously the Singapore
Fireworks Festival) is an annual event held in
Singapore as part of
National Day celebrations. The festival features local and foreign
teams which launch displays on different nights. While currently
non-competitive in nature, the organizer has plans to introduce a
competitive element in the future.
The annual festival has grown in magnitude, from 4,000 rounds used in
2004, to 6,000 in 2005, to over 9,100 in 2006.
Switzerland fireworks are often used on 1 August, which is a
national celebration day.
Fireworks in Edinburgh
One of the biggest occasions for fireworks in the UK is Guy Fawkes
Night held each year on 5 November, to celebrate the foiling of the
Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605, an attempt to kill King
James I. The Guardian newspaper said in 2008 that Britain's biggest
Guy Fawkes night events were: The biggest biggest occasion for
Northern Ireland takes place at Halloween.[citation
After Dark fireworks, Sheffield homepage
Bangers on the Beach (
Holyhead Round Table charity fireworks),
Battel Bonfire in
Battle, East Sussex
Battle, East Sussex homepage
Blackheath Fireworks, London homepage[permanent dead link]
Bught Park fireworks, Inverness homepage
Fireworks with Vikings, Tutbury, Staffordshire homepage
Flaming Tar Barrels,
Ottery St Mary
Ottery St Mary homepage
Glasgow Green fireworks homepage
Halloween Happening fireworks,
Derry homepage[permanent dead link]
Midsummer Common, Cambridge homepage
Sparks in the Park
Sparks in the Park (Cardiff Round Table charity fireworks), Cardiff
America's earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm for fireworks to
the United States.
Fireworks and black ash were used to celebrate
important events long before the American Revolutionary War.[citation
needed] The very first celebration of Independence Day was in 1777,
six years before Americans knew whether or not the new nation would
survive the war; fireworks were a part of all festivities.[citation
needed] In 1789, George Washington's inauguration was accompanied by a
fireworks display. This early fascination with
fireworks' noise and color continues today.
In 2004, Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, pioneered the commercial
use of aerial fireworks launched with compressed air rather than
gunpowder. The display shell explodes in the air using an electronic
timer. The advantages of compressed air launch are a reduction in
fumes, and much greater accuracy in height and timing. The Walt
Disney Company is now the largest consumer of fireworks in the United
Uses other than public displays
Main article: Consumer fireworks
In addition to large public displays, people often buy small amounts
of fireworks for their own celebrations.
Fireworks on general sale are
usually less powerful than professional fireworks. Types include
firecrackers, rockets, cakes (multishot aerial fireworks) and smoke
Fireworks can also be used in an agricultural capacity as bird
Copper compounds glow green or blue-green in a flame.
Main article: Pyrotechnic composition
Colors in fireworks are usually generated by pyrotechnic
stars—usually just called stars—which produce intense light when
ignited. Stars contain five basic types of ingredients.
A fuel which allows the star to burn
An oxidizer—a compound which produces (usually) oxygen to support
the combustion of the fuel
A binder which holds the pellet together.
A chlorine donor which provides chlorine to strengthen the color of
the flame. Sometimes the oxidizer can serve this purpose.
Some of the more common color-producing compounds are tabulated here.
The color of a compound in a firework will be the same as its color in
a flame test (shown at right). Not all compounds that produce a
colored flame are appropriate for coloring fireworks, however. Ideal
colorants will produce a pure, intense color when present in moderate
Strontium (intense red)
Lithium (medium red)
SrCO3 (strontium carbonate)
Li2CO3 (lithium carbonate) LiCl (lithium chloride)
CaCl2 (calcium chloride)
NaNO3 (sodium nitrate)
BaCl2 (barium chloride)
CuCl2 (copper chloride), at low temperature
CsNO3 (cesium nitrate)
KNO3 (potassium nitrate)
RbNO3 (rubidium nitrate)
Charcoal, iron, or lampblack
Titanium, aluminium, beryllium, or magnesium powders
The brightest stars, often called Mag Stars, are fueled by aluminium.
Magnesium is rarely used in the fireworks industry due to its lack of
ability to form a protective oxide layer. Often an alloy of both
metals called magnalium is used.
Many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of fireworks are
non-toxic, while many more have some degree of toxicity, can cause
skin sensitivity, or exist in dust form and are thereby inhalation
hazards. Still others are poisons if directly ingested or inhaled.
Abstract reference of chemicals used in fireworks industry
The following table is an educational guideline for the chemistry of
Aluminium is used to produce silver and white flames and sparks. It is
a common component of sparklers.
Barium is used to create green colors in fireworks, and it can also
help stabilize other volatile elements.
Carbon is one of the main components of black powder, which is used as
a propellent in fireworks.
Carbon provides the fuel for a firework.
Common forms include carbon black, sugar, or starch.
Calcium is used to deepen firework colors.
Calcium salts produce
Chlorine is an important component of many oxidizers in fireworks.
Several of the metal salts that produce colors contain chlorine.
Cesium compounds help to oxidize firework mixtures.
produce an indigo color in fireworks.
Copper compounds produce blue colors in fireworks.
Iron is used to produce sparks. The heat of the metal determines the
color of the sparks.
Potassium compounds help to oxidize firework mixtures. Potassium
nitrate, potassium chlorate, and potassium perchlorate are all
important oxidizers. The potassium content can impart a violet color
to the sparks.
Lithium is a metal that is used to impart a red color to fireworks.
Lithium carbonate, in particular, is a common colorant.
Magnesium burns a very bright white, so it is used to add white sparks
or improve the overall brilliance of a firework.
Sodium imparts a gold or yellow color to fireworks, however, the color
is often so bright that it frequently masks other, less intense
Fireworks include oxidizers, which are substances that produce oxygen
in order for burning to occur. The oxidizers are usually nitrates,
chlorates, or perchlorates. Sometimes the same substance is used to
provide oxygen and color.
Phosphorus burns spontaneously in air and is also responsible for some
glow in the dark effects. It may be a component of a firework's fuel.
Radium would create intense green colors in fireworks, but it is far
too hazardous to use.
Rubidium compounds help to oxidize firework mixtures. Rubidium
compounds produce a violet-red color in fireworks.
Sulfur is a component of black powder, and as such, it is found in a
Antimony is used to create firework glitter effects.
Strontium salts impart a red color to fireworks.
are also important for stabilizing fireworks mixtures.
Titanium metal can be burned as powder or flakes to produce silver
Zinc is a bluish white metal that is used to create smoke effects for
fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices.
Types of effects
Main article: Cake (firework)
A cake is a cluster of individual tubes linked by fuse that fires a
series of aerial effects. Tube diameters can range in size from
1⁄4–4 inches (6.4–101.6 mm), and a single cake can have
over 1,000 shots. The variety of effects within individual cakes is
often such that they defy descriptive titles and are instead given
cryptic names such as "Bermuda Triangle", "Pyro Glyphics", "Waco
Wakeup", and "Poisonous Spider", to name a few. Others are simply
quantities of 2.5–4 in (64–102 mm) shells fused together
in single-shot tubes.
A shell containing several large stars that travel a short distance
before breaking apart into smaller stars, creating a crisscrossing
grid-like effect. Strictly speaking, a crossette star should split
into 4 pieces which fly off symmetrically, making a cross. Once
limited to silver or gold effects, colored crossettes such as red,
green, or white are now very common.
A spherical break of colored stars, similar to a peony, but with stars
that leave a visible trail of sparks.
Essentially the same as a peony shell, but with fewer and larger
stars. These stars travel a longer-than-usual distance from the shell
break before burning out. For instance, if a 3 in (76 mm)
peony shell is made with a star size designed for a 6 in
(150 mm) shell, it is then considered a dahlia. Some dahlia
shells are cylindrical rather than spherical to allow for larger
A type of Chrysanthemum or Peony, with a center cluster of non-moving
stars, normally of a contrasting color or effect.
Inserts that propel themselves rapidly away from the shell burst,
often resembling fish swimming away.
Named for the shape of its break, this shell features heavy
long-burning tailed stars that only travel a short distance from the
shell burst before free-falling to the ground. Also known as a
waterfall shell. Sometimes there is a glittering through the
A typical kamuro effect
Kamuro is a Japanese word meaning "boys haircut", which is what this
shell resembles when fully exploded in the air. It is a dense burst of
glittering silver or gold stars which leave a heavy glitter trail and
shine bright in the night's sky.
A mine (aka. pot à feu) is a ground firework that expels stars and/or
other garnitures into the sky. Shot from a mortar like a shell, a mine
consists of a canister with the lift charge on the bottom with the
effects placed on top. Mines can project small reports, serpents,
small shells, as well as just stars. Although mines up to 12 inches
(300 mm) diameter appear on occasion, they are usually between
3–5 inches (76–127 mm), in diameter.
A large shell containing several smaller shells of various sizes and
types. The initial burst scatters the shells across the sky before
they explode. Also called a bouquet shell. When a shell contains
smaller shells of the same size and type, the effect is usually
referred to as "Thousands". Very large bouquet shells (up to 48 inches
(1,200 mm)) are frequently used in Japan.
Bangs and report
The bang is the most common effect in fireworks and sounds like a
gunshot, technically called a report.
The firework produces a crackling sound.
Tiny tube fireworks that are ejected into the air spinning with such
force that they shred their outer coating, in doing so they whizz and
High pitched often very loud screaming and screeching created by the
resonance of gas. This is caused by a very fast strobing (on/off
burning stage) of the fuel. The rapid bursts of gas from the fuel
vibrate the air many hundreds of times per second causing the familiar
whistling sound. It is not, as is commonly thought, made in the
conventional way that musical instruments are using specific tube
shapes or apertures. Common whistle fuels contain Benzoate or
Salicylate compounds and a suitable oxidizer such as Potassium
A collection of palm-shell fireworks illuminating the beach of Tybee
A shell containing a relatively few large comet stars arranged in such
a way as to burst with large arms or tendrils, producing a palm
tree-like effect. Proper palm shells feature a thick rising tail that
displays as the shell ascends, thereby simulating the tree trunk to
further enhance the "palm tree" effect. One might also see a burst of
color inside the palm burst (given by a small insert shell) to
A spherical break of colored stars that burn without a tail effect.
The peony is the most commonly seen shell type.
A shell with stars specially arranged so as to create a ring.
Variations include smiley faces, hearts, and clovers.
Main article: Roman candle (firework)
A Roman candle is a long tube containing several large stars which
fire at a regular interval. These are commonly arranged in fan shapes
or crisscrossing shapes, at a closer proximity to the audience. Some
larger Roman candles contain small shells (bombettes) rather than
Main article: Salute (pyrotechnics)
A shell intended to produce a loud report rather than a visual effect.
Salute shells usually contain flash powder, producing a quick flash
followed by a very loud report.
Titanium may be added to the flash
powder mix to produce a cloud of bright sparks around the flash.
Salutes are commonly used in large quantities during finales to create
intense noise and brightness. They are often cylindrical in shape to
allow for a larger payload of flash powder, but ball shapes are common
and cheaper as well. Salutes are also called Maroons.
A typical spider effect
A shell containing a fast burning tailed or charcoal star that is
burst very hard so that the stars travel in a straight and flat
trajectory before slightly falling and burning out. This appears in
the sky as a series of radial lines much like the legs of a spider.
An effect created by large, slow-burning stars within a shell that
leave a trail of large glittering sparks behind and make a sizzling
noise. The "time" refers to the fact that these stars burn away
gradually, as opposed to the standard brocade "rain" effect where a
large amount of glitter material is released at once.
Similar to a chrysanthemum, but with long-burning silver or gold stars
that produce a soft, dome-shaped weeping willow-like effect.
Hazards and regulation
A firework rocket preparing its launch on the American Independence
Fireworks pose risks of injury to people, and of damage, largely as a
Fireworks produce smoke and dust that may contain residues of heavy
metals, sulfur-coal compounds and some low concentration toxic
chemicals. These by-products of fireworks combustion will vary
depending on the mix of ingredients of a particular firework. (The
color green, for instance, may be produced by adding the various
compounds and salts of Barium, some of which are toxic, and some of
which are not.) Some fisherman have noticed and reported to
environmental authorities that firework residues can hurt fish and
other water-life because some may contain toxic compounds such as
antimony sulfide. This is a subject of much debate due to the fact
that large-scale pollution from other sources makes it difficult to
measure the amount of pollution that comes specifically from
fireworks. The possible toxicity of any fallout may also be affected
by the amount of black powder used, type of oxidizer, colors produced
and launch method.
Perchlorate, a type of salt in its solid form, dissolves and moves
rapidly in groundwater and surface water. Even in low concentrations
in drinking water supplies, perchlorate is known to inhibit the uptake
of iodine by the thyroid gland. While there are currently no federal
drinking water standards for perchlorate, some states have established
public health goals, or action levels, and some are in the process of
establishing state maximum contaminant levels. For example, the US
Environmental Protection Agency have studied the impacts of
perchlorate on the environment as well as drinking water.
California has also issued guidance regarding perchlorate use.
Several US states have enacted drinking water standard for perchlorate
including Massachusetts in 2006. California's legislature enacted AB
826, the Perchlorate Contamination Prevention Act of 2003, requiring
California's Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to adopt
regulations specifying best management practices for perchlorate and
perchlorate-containing substances. The Perchlorate Best Management
Practices were adopted on December 31, 2005 and became operative on
July 1, 2006. California issued drinking water standards in 2007.
Several other states, including Arizona, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico,
New York, and Texas have established non-enforceable, advisory levels
The courts have also taken action with regard to perchlorate
contamination. For example, in 2003, a federal district court in
California found that Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) applied because perchlorate is
ignitable and therefore a "characteristic" hazardous waste.
Pollutants from fireworks raise concerns because of potential health
risks associated with hazardous by-products. For most people the
effects of exposure to low levels of toxins from many sources over
long periods are unknown. For persons with asthma or multiple chemical
sensitivity the smoke from fireworks may aggravate existing health
problems. Environmental pollution is also a concern because heavy
metals and other chemicals from fireworks may contaminate water
supplies and because fireworks combustion gases might contribute to
such things as acid rain which can cause vegetation and even property
damage. However, gunpowder smoke and the solid residues are basic, and
as such the net effect of fireworks on acid rain is debatable. The
carbon used in fireworks is produced from wood and does not lead to
more carbon dioxide in the air. What is not disputed is that most
consumer fireworks leave behind a considerable amount of solid debris,
including both readily biodegradable components as well as
nondegradable plastic items. Concerns over pollution, consumer safety,
and debris have restricted the sale and use of consumer fireworks in
many countries. Professional displays, on the other hand, remain
popular around the world.
Others argue that alleged concern over pollution from fireworks
constitutes a red herring, since the amount of contamination from
fireworks is minuscule in comparison to emissions from sources such as
the burning of fossil fuels. In the US some states and local
governments restrict the use of fireworks in accordance with the Clean
Air Act which allows laws relating to the prevention and control of
outdoor air pollution to be enacted. Few governmental entities, by
contrast, effectively limit pollution from burning fossil fuels such
as diesel fuel or coal. Coal fueled electricity generation alone is a
much greater source of heavy metal contamination in the environment
Some companies within the U.S. fireworks industry claim they are
working with Chinese manufacturers to reduce and ultimately hope to
eliminate of the pollutant perchlorate.
Government regulations around the world
In Australia, Type 1 fireworks are permitted to be sold to the public.
For anything that has a large explosion or gets airborne, users need
to register for a Type 2 Licence. On August 24, 2009 the ACT
Government announced a complete ban on backyard fireworks. The
Northern Territory allows fireworks to be sold to residents 18 years
or older in the days leading up to
Northern Territory Day (July 1) for
personal purposes. The types of fireworks allowed for sale is
restricted to quieter fireworks, which can only be used at the address
provided to the seller.
Canada Day 2016 firework show.
The use, storage and sale of commercial-grade fireworks in
licensed by Natural Resources Canada's Explosive Regulatory Division
(ERD). Unlike their consumer counterpart, commercial-grade fireworks
function differently, and come in a wide range of sizes from
50 mm (2 inches) up to 300 mm (12 inches) or more
in diameter. Commercial grade fireworks require a fireworks
supervisors card, obtained from the ERD by completing a one-day safety
course. There are 3 levels, Apprentice, which allows you to work under
a qualified supervisor until you are familiar with the basics. Then
Supervisor level 1, which allows you to independently use and fire
most commercial grade pyrotechnics. Finally Supervisor level 2 expands
on that, allowing firing from barges, bridges, rooftops and over
unusual sites. Since commercial-grade fireworks are shells which are
loaded into separate mortars by hand, there is danger in every stage
of the setup. Setup of these fireworks involves the placement and
securing of mortars on wooden or wire racks; loading of the shells;
and if electronically firing, wiring and testing. The mortars are
generally made of FRE (Fiber-Reinforced Epoxy) or
Polyethelene), some older mortars are made of Sheet Steel, but have
been banned by most countries due to the problem of shrapnel produced
during a misfire.
Setup of mortars in
Canada for an oblong firing site require that a
mortar be configured at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees down-range
with a safety distance of at least 200 meters down-range and
100 meters surrounding the mortars, plus distance adjustments for
wind speed and direction. In June 2007, the ERD approved circular
firing sites for use with vertically fired mortars with a safety
distance of at least 175 meter radius, plus distance adjustments
for wind speed and direction.
Loading of shells is a delicate process, and must be done with
caution, and a loader must ensure not only the mortar is clean, but
also make sure that no part of their body is directly over the mortar
in case of a premature fire. Wiring the shells is a painstaking
process; whether the shells are being fired manually or
electronically, any "chain fusing" or wiring of electrical ignitors,
care must be taken to prevent the fuse (an electrical match, often
incorrectly called a squib) from igniting. If the setup is wired
electrically, the electrical matches are usually plugged into a
"firing rail" or "breakout box" which runs back to the main firing
board; from there, the Firing Board is simply hooked up to a car
battery, and can proceed with firing the show when ready.
Since commercial-grade fireworks are so much larger and more powerful,
setup and firing crews are always under great pressure to ensure they
safely set up, fire, and clean up after a show.
In Chile, the manufacture, importation, possession and use of
fireworks is prohibited to unauthorized individuals; only certified
firework companies can legally use fireworks. As they are considered a
type of explosive, offenders can in principle be tried before military
courts, though this is unusual in practice.
Eurockéennes 2013 in Belfort, France, Europe.
Fireworks policy in the European Union
The European Union's policy is aimed at harmonising and standardising
the EU member states' policies on the regulation of production,
transportation, sale, consumption and overall safety of fireworks
Fireworks policy in Belgium
In Belgium, each municipality can decide how to regulate fireworks.
During New Year's Eve, lighting fireworks without a licence is allowed
in 35% of the 308 Flemish municipalities, in around 50% a permit from
the burgemeester (mayor) is required, and around 14% of municipalities
have banned consumer fireworks altogether.
Finland those under 18 years old haven't been allowed to buy any
fireworks since 2009. Safety goggles are required. The use of
fireworks is generally allowed on the evening and night of New Year's
Eve, December 31. In some municipalities of Western
Finland it is
allowed to use fireworks without a fire station's permission on the
last weekend of August. With the fire station's permission, fireworks
can be used year-round.
In Germany, amateurs over 18 years old are allowed to buy and ignite
Category F2 for several hours on 31 December and 1
January; each German municipality is authorised to limit the number of
hours this may last locally. The sale of
Category F3 and F4
fireworks to consumers is prohibited. Lighting fireworks is
forbidden near churches, hospitals, retirement homes and wooden or
thatch-roofed buildings. All major German cities organise
professional fireworks shows.
Dutch Safety Board
Dutch Safety Board report on fireworks risks (English subtitles).
Fireworks policy in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, fireworks cannot be sold to anyone under the age
of 16. It may only be sold during a period of three days before a new
year. If one of these days is a Sunday, that day is excluded from sale
and sale may commence one day earlier.
Republic of Ireland
Fireworks policy in the Republic of Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, fireworks are illegal and possession is
punishable by huge fines and/or prison. However, around
large amount of fireworks are set off, due to the ease of being able
to purchase from Northern Ireland.
In Sweden, fireworks can only be purchased and used by people 18 or
older. Fire crackers used to be banned, but are now allowed under
European Union fireworks policy.
Firework display at the
Jodrell Bank Observatory
Jodrell Bank Observatory 2013.
Fireworks law in the United Kingdom
Fireworks in the UK have become more strictly regulated since 1997.
Since 2005, the law has been gradually harmonised in accordance with
other EU member states' laws.
Fireworks are mostly used in England, Scotland and Wales around
Diwali, in late October or early November, and Guy Fawkes Night,
November 5. In the UK, responsibility for the safety of firework
displays is shared between the Health and Safety Executive, fire
brigades and local authorities. Currently, there is no national system
of licensing for fireworks operators, but in order to purchase display
fireworks, operators must have licensed explosives storage and public
Fireworks cannot be sold to people under the age of 18 and are not
permitted to be set off between 11pm and 7am with exceptions only for:
Bonfire Night (5 November) (Valid until midnight) 
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year (Valid until 1am) 
Diwali (Valid until 1am) 
New Year (Midnight New Year's Eve, valid until 1am) 
The legal NEC (Net Explosive Content) of a UK Firework available to
the public is 2 Kilograms. Jumping Jacks, Strings of Firecrackers,
Shell Firing tubes, Bangers and Mini-Rockets were all banned during
the late 1990s. In 2004 single shot Air Bombs and Bottle Rockets were
banned, and rocket sizes were limited. From March 2008 any firework
with over 5% flashpowder per tube has been classified 1.3G. The aim of
these measures was to eliminate "pocket money" fireworks, and to limit
the disruptive effects of loud bangs.
In Iceland, the Icelandic law states that anyone may purchase and use
fireworks during a certain period around New Year's Eve. Most places
that sell fireworks in
Iceland make their own rules about age of
buyers, usually it is around 16. The people of
enormous sums of money on fireworks, most of which are fired as
midnight approaches on December 31. As a result, every New Year's Eve
the city is lit up with fireworks displays.
New Zealand are available from 2 to 5 November, around
Guy Fawkes Day, and may be purchased only by those 18 years of age and
older (up from 14 years pre-2007). Despite the restriction on when
fireworks may be sold, there is no restriction regarding when
fireworks may be used. The types of fireworks available to the public
are multi-shot "cakes", Roman candles, single shot shooters, ground
and wall spinners, fountains, cones, sparklers, and various novelties,
such as smoke bombs and Pharaoh's serpents.
Consumer fireworks are
also not allowed to be louder than 90 decibels.
In Norway, fireworks can only be purchased and used by people 18 or
older. Sale is restricted to a few days before New Year's Eve. Rockets
are not allowed.
Fireworks policy in the United States
In the United States, the laws governing fireworks vary widely from
state to state, or from county to county. Federal, state, and local
authorities govern the use of display fireworks in the United States.
At the federal level, the
National Fire Protection Association
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
sets forth a set of codes which give the minimum standards of display
fireworks use and safety in the US. Both state and local jurisdictions
can further add restrictions on the use and safety requirements of
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Quote from Dave Whysall of Dave Whysall's International Fireworks
located in Orton, ON. www.dwfireworks.com
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fireworks.
NOVA Online Kaboom! with pyrotechnics, anatomy of fireworks, etc
Fireworks Association ACP
Melanie Doderer-Winkler, "Magnificent Entertainments: Temporary
Architecture for Georgian Festivals" (London and New Haven, Yale
University Press for The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British
Art, December 2013). ISBN 0300186428 and
Plimpton, George (1984). Fireworks: A History and Celebration.
Doubleday. ISBN 0385154143.
Brock, Alan St. Hill (1949). A History of Fireworks. George G. Harrap
Russell, Michael S (2008). The chemistry of fireworks. Royal Society
of Chemistry, Great Britain. ISBN 9780854041275.
Shimizu, Takeo (1996). Fireworks: The Art, Science, and Technique.
Pyrotechnica Publications. ISBN 978-0929388052.
Werrett, Simon (2010). Fireworks: Pyrotechnic Arts and Sciences in
European History. University of Chicago Press.