Carbon Footprint of Fireworks (How Much CO2 Do Fireworks Produce?)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 18, 2024

Man wonders what is the carbon footprint of fireworks while looking at fireworks carbon footprint in the sky.

Fireworks are wonderfully entertaining and have been used for celebrations for centuries, but as these decorations become more advanced, many people wonder about the carbon footprint of fireworks, essentially, how much CO2 do fireworks produce?

These little explosions have a bigger impact on the atmosphere than you might know. But are fireworks bad for the planet, really?

This detailed guide to the carbon footprint of fireworks is designed to explain what the eco-impact of fieworks is, and how you can find ways to still use these celebratory decorations, without adding to any environmental damage.

Carbon Footprint of Fireworks: How Much CO2 Do Fireworks Produce?

Typically, fireworks use black powder, also known as gunpowder. This powder comprises carbon or charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate, which all occur naturally in the environment.

Other ingredients (not so natural) are also added to fireworks to change their shape, color, and glitter intensity.1

Fireworks pollution results from explosives containing ingredients that initiate greenhouse gas and other toxic environmental pollutants.1

According to research over 15 years ago, fireworks emitted about 123,422.5 metric tons of carbon.7

Later, studies were updated to show that the total carbon emission from fireworks in the US is 60,340 tons. This amount is approximately equal to the total emission of 12,000 cars annually.1

Sparklers also emit a similar amount of pollution made of sulfur and charcoal to slow down their burn. The main difference is that their amount of CO2 emission is generally smaller scale.

Additionally, fireworks produce air pollutants and smoke that negatively affect the air quality. These are often set off in rivers and lakes, contaminating waterways and marine life.1

It is also possible to measure the average emissions from fireworks using the formula:

EFPM 10= 42.5g PM10/kg gross weight of fireworks

You can also determine the carbon footprint of fireworks using a carbon footprint calculator.

Fireworks CO2 Emissions

Fireworks are mainly made from black powder, which is carbon. These components release CO2 in the environment after combustion.

The primary forms include sugar, carbon black, or starch.2 Typically, fireworks containing about 35kg of gunpowder produce about 17kg CO2 when fully combusted.

To explain this better, new petrol engines produce 190gm of CO2 per mile.2

Therefore, you will require to travel for 88 miles on a new petrol engine to produce the amount of CO2 emitted by fireworks. If you consider tracing this carbon footprint using four vehicles, the amount of CO2 will represent a fraction of the whole audience.2

Are Fireworks Environmentally Friendly?

Though fireworks appear to be attractive, they are non-environmentally friendly.8 They propel a mixture of chemicals into the environment, harming humans and the environment.

The mixture of colors from fireworks comes from various metallic compounds, such as aluminum or barium, that negatively affect human and animal health.

In addition, they produce oxygen needed for the explosion; most fireworks have oxidizers known as perchlorates. These substances can dissolve in water to contaminate lakes, rivers, and drinking water.

Also, fireworks emit a cloud of particular matter and smoke, affecting the local air quality. Nonetheless, “safer” fireworks replace perchlorates with more safe alternatives or use some compressed air to minimize the amount of smoke emitted.

How Much Do Fireworks Pollute?

Fireworks are made up of various metals that give them different colors. For instance, the pink color is produced by lithium; sodium salts release orange or yellow, and barium and copper salts release blue or green flames.

Although these explosives and salts undergo a temporary physical change, they also undergo a chemical reaction when combusted.1

Carbon emissions produced by small fireworks.

(Image: Alexander Kagan13)

This chemical reaction releases gases and smoke, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases that trigger climate change. During the combustion process, these salts and metals do not burn up completely, and they leave some traces of metal atoms and aerosols that pollute soil and water.1

When these metals are inhaled or ingested, they can cause various long-term and short-term reactions, including diarrhea, vomiting, asthma attacks, cardiotoxic, kidney disease, and various types of cancer.1

Generally, fireworks cause air pollution, which can be measured using the Air Quality Index. This metric measures the concentration of air-borne pollutants, such as aerosols, air-borne pollutants, and other pollutants.

Typically, the Air Quality Index measures 0 to 500, and anything above 401 is classified as severe and can severely affect the health of individuals with respiratory problems.1

Fireworks Carbon Emissions

Fireworks are significant carbon emitters and generally produce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

According to Tree Hugger, fireworks release about 60,340 metric tons of CO2 in the US annually. This is generally higher than the emission from 12,000 gas-engine vehicles every year.1

Further, fireworks also emit some amount of ozone, a greenhouse gas, as their secondary pollutant. The fireworks’ carbon emissions negatively affect the air quality, which can affect individuals living with respiratory complications such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.1

Fortunately, with a family earth defender carbon offset, you can erase the emissions generated by fireworks.

How Much Do Fireworks Contribute to Global Warming?

Fireworks emit metals and salts after undergoing the combustion chemical reaction. This process later releases smoke and gases, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.

Unfortunately, these three gases are responsible for global warming.

Harmful Effects of Fireworks

In addition to environmental pollution, fireworks also affect our health.9

Gases and smoke, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, are released when subjected to a chemical reaction. Apparently, three of these gases have a greenhouse effect.3

New Year's day with fireworks and smoke hovering over the city.

(Image: Mario La Pergola14)

Not only are these gases bad for our environment, but they also expose our bodies to toxic chemicals that affect our health.

Typically, when fireworks explode, their metal components do not disappear. Instead, their residues remain in the air aerosols that contaminate the soil and water.3

These metals can also compromise human health by causing diarrhea, vomiting, asthma, cardiotoxic effects, kidney disease, and cancers due to ingestion and inhalation.3

Fireworks also produce a loud bang after combustion. This noise exposes pets, wild animals, and other creatures to trauma and stress.

The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (CWRS) reports that wild creatures are primarily found during fireworks peak seasons in affected areas.3

In turn, this increased disturbance makes animals neglect their babies and hatch in their nests. These occasional disturbances can cause wildlife to decrease and disorientate their ability to relocate their families.3

Additionally, fireworks contain perchlorates that release the oxygen required to enhance their combustion reactions.

These substances are known to pollute and contaminate water sources, including rivers, lakes, and dams. This affects the aquatic creatures in these water bodies.3

In addition to affecting water, ingesting high amounts of perchlorates also cause a threat of decreased production of thyroid hormone, an essential hormone in the development and growth of our nervous system.3

Fireworks Pollution Statistics

Fireworks release high levels of pollution during holidays and valuable occasions. According to a US-based agency, fireworks-caused pollution is generally higher on 5th July, the country’s independence day.

The agency noted hazardous and unhealthy pollution levels, with Ontario’s highest concentration of pollutants. Also, another research done in 2015 found that the average amount of fine-particle pollution was 42% higher 24 hours before the holiday.

How Are Fireworks Harmful to the Environment?

Fireworks are made from various chemical compounds, including sodium and pink salts, which produce yellow and pink.

According to a Forbes scientist, these explosives and metal salts undergo a chemical reaction that releases gases and smoke into the air. This includes nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide— gases responsible for climate change.

Close-up shot of a lighted triangular firecracker.

(Image: Nandhu Kumar15)

Typically, during the explosion, these metal salts leave metal atoms that remain as aerosols that poison the soil, air, and water. Also, when these metal atoms are inhaled, they can cause various reactions, such as kidney disease, vomiting, asthma attacks, cardiotoxic attacks, and various types of cancer.

Fireworks also contain perchlorates, substances that release oxygen to facilitate their combustion.

The compounds can dissolve in water, contaminating lakes, rivers, and drinking water. This compromises the well-being of aquatic creatures living in such water bodies.

Carbon Footprint of Fireworks: Impact of Fireworks on Human Health

Fireworks contain various components that compromise human health. After combustion, these explosives emit harmful gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

Unfortunately, these emissions are toxic to children, women, and individuals living with chronic asthma.

Nebulizer equipment with mask and asthma medicine for people suffering breathing problems due to bad effects of fireworks on human health.

(Image: Sincerely Media16)

Fireworks also have highly suspended particulate matter that causes nose, throat, and eye-related problems.

Generally, these severely affect people with nervous, heart, and respiratory disorders. This can lead to reduced mental activity and headaches.

They can also increase the problem for people suffering from coughs or cold allergies and congest the chest and throat.

Fireworks also emit unwanted harmful noise. The Department of Environment and Natural Resouces (DENR) is responsible for setting the standard noise level.

Typically, 60 decibels is the standard ambient noise during the daytime, while 50 dB is the set standard during the night.

However, fireworks produce loud noise that can exceed 140 decibels. Unfortunately, noise above 85 decibels can impair hearing.

The increased noise levels can cause restlessness, permanent or temporary loss of hearing, sleep disturbance, and high blood pressure.

Lastly, fireworks can trigger respiratory problems, including allergic or chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, and pneumonia.

Are Fireworks Bad for the Ozone Layer?

Yes, fireworks emit a large amount of greenhouse gas after an explosion. Typically, these explosives emit three gases after going off, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide— well-known gases for their greenhouse effect.

Therefore, increased fireworks combustion during occasions and public holidays is unsuitable for depreciating the ozone layer.3 It would be best if you found suitable alternatives to fireworks to minimize the extent of environmental damage.

Such alternatives can lower the carbon footprint of fireworks and enhance environmental consciousness. Alternatively, you can invest in environmentally-friendly fireworks options.3

Do Fireworks Contribute to Global Warming?

Yes, the combustion of fireworks emits greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.10 These gases, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide emitted by fireworks, increase the amount of heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.

The greenhouse action is a good thing for the environment. It keeps the earth at a comfortable temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, making it well, keeps life, and makes it livable.

However, an increase in carbon footprint can increase the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect increases global warming, which triggers the planet’s climatic conditions in various ways.

Generally, this occurs due to the reflection of invisible infrared light on the earth.

How Do You Measure the Carbon Footprint of Fireworks?

You can easily measure the carbon footprint of fireworks by comparing them with a gas-driven vehicle. Generally, fireworks containing 35 kg of gunpowder emit about 17 kg of CO2 when fully combusted. Nonetheless, you can use a carbon footprint calculator to ascertain the accurate amount of carbon these explosives emit.

Environmentally Friendly Fireworks

You can easily lower the carbon footprint of fireworks using environmentally-friendly fireworks.

These fireworks have a nitrogen-based, clean fuel. This means that they lack the perchlorate components responsible for oxidizing the fireworks.4

Environmentally-friendly fireworks are specifically-designed to minimize the level of environmental pollution. When burned, pyrotechnics appear spectacular but emit a large amount of smoke, new metal compounds, and perchlorates, contaminants.

Other fireworks are made using sulfur, charcoal fuel, and perchlorate oxidizer, which helps in combustion, colorants, binders, and propellants.4

Nonetheless, eco-friendly fireworks have an unpolluted burning, nitrogen-based fuel. This means that there is no perchlorate oxidizer present.

Instead, they use small amounts of metal salts to produce brilliant-colored flames.4

Fireworks Noise Pollution

Although fireworks can be considered fun, these explosives emit excess noise. However, it can be hard to tackle this noise since burning them is a brief activity done within permitted hours.

Decibel meter showing its power level gauge.

(Image: PublicDomainPictures18)

The Fireworks Regulations set these time limits, and the police are responsible for enforcing them.

Commercial venues carrying out functions are considered a statutory nuisance when they set off fireworks. Law enforcers assess nuisance based on the number of times they disturb.

Therefore, licensed premises such as clubs are given limits on the number of times they should light up fireworks.

Fireworks are restricted with a nuisance level of 120 dB, and standard trade officers confirm this requirement with all manufacturers.11 It is illegal to sell more giant fireworks with a more robust display.

Therefore, all fireworks are designed with a standard ambient noise level of 120 dB.

Research shows that fireworks noise pollution makes wild animals migrate to new areas when initiated in areas close to their habitats during ceremonies and holidays. Nonetheless, humans’ standard ambient noise level is 60 dB and 80 dB day and night, respectively.

Therefore, when fireworks are used anyhow for non-occasional events, they can cause noise pollution.

Fireworks and Water Pollution

Although fireworks are well-known for air pollution, these explosives also trigger water pollution. Generally, fireworks are made from heavy metal salts and perchlorate compounds, which facilitate their combustion.

However, these substances have environmental consequences for the environment and humans.5

After burning fireworks, their compounds are typically washed away by rainfall and accumulate in surface water or groundwater. Further, this debris can deteriorate and penetrate the watersheds.

Pile of exploded fireworks on a road which can potentially contribute to the contamination of water resources due to chemicals.

(Image: Etienne Girardet17)

Several studies reveal that the type of water contamination found on surface water near public areas has metal salts and perchlorate compounds. The findings show that fireworks were burnt near these areas, and their residues were deposited in the water bodies close to these memorial sites.5

Individuals can also risk polluting waterways by setting fireworks near water bodies or leaving debris unattended by domestic waste and safety professionals.5

Fireworks’ Impact on Wildlife

Fireworks’ sudden sounds and flashes make wild animals move to roadways and can cause serious car accidents.

The loud noise from fireworks can cause wildlife to leave and move in roadways and unexpected areas. Also, they may suffer from stress and devastating health complications.6

Reports tell that most wildlife rehabilitation centers have high numbers of injured, orphaned, and traumatized wild animals after a holiday. Also, predatory birds, such as bald eagles, regard lights and sounds from fireworks as a threat and may completely abandon their habitats or nests.6

In addition, these explosions may make animals move out for a long time when looking for essential energy required for survival. Fireworks also frighten birds to fly far areas in the sea, leaving them with insufficient energy for their return flight.6

Further, wild birds frightened by fireworks’ noise fly longer and higher, exposing them to hazardous ingredients such as nitric oxide, ozone, and sulfur dioxide that affect their cardiovascular and respiratory systems.6

Therefore, keeping wildlife safe during ceremonies using fireworks would minimize their possible threat risk.

Are Fireworks Bad for Climate Change?

When fireworks go off, their explosive and metal salts undergo a chemical reaction that releases gases and smoke into the air. These gases may include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

Unfortunately, these three gases are responsible for climate change.12

Fireworks are eye-catching decoratives that we commonly use in memorials and other ceremonies. However, these explosives have adverse environmental effects.

Fireworks have negative implications, from air pollution, water pollution, and depriving wildlife habitats to compromising our well-being.

By understanding the carbon footprint of fireworks (how much CO2 fireworks produce), you can use this guide to make environmental conservation efforts by using offsets to erase the harmful impact.

Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Footprint of Fireworks

Can We Lower the Carbon Footprint of Fireworks?

Yes, you can use environmentally-friendly fireworks to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by fireworks. These types are eco-friendly and are manufactured explicitly with low metal salts that may lead to environmental pollution, or you can purchase carbon offsets.

Is Fireworks Safe in Drinking Water?

No, burned-down fireworks leave residues of metal salts and pechlorides, which have adverse effects when dissolved in water because the release of these compounds in water bodies can affect the safety of drinking this water. Generally, drinking water with these contaminants can lead to severe illnesses such as cancer, asthma, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Read More About Carbon Footprint of Fireworks


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5MCWEC. (2022, June 27). How Fireworks Pollute Our Drinking Water. Marion County Wellfield Education Corporation. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from <>

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11Southend-on-Sea City Council. (2022). Noise Pollution – Southend-on-Sea City Council. Southend-on-Sea City Council. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from <>

12PBS. (2022, July 4). Study: Fireworks release high levels of pollution on July 4 weekend. PBS. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from <>

13Photo by Alexander Kagan. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

14Photo by Mario La Pergola. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

15Photo by Nandhu Kumar. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

16Photo by Sincerely Media. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

17Photo by Etienne Girardet. Unsplash. Retrieved from <>

18Photo by PublicDomainPictures. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>