Why Burning Driftwood Makes Colored (Toxic) Fire

Blue Colored Fire (Lawrence Lawry, Getty Images)

Did you know you can burn driftwood, especially from the ocean, to get a fire with blue and lavender flames? The colored fire comes from excitation of the metal salts that have soaked into the wood. 

While the flames are pretty, the smoke given off of the fire is toxic. Specifically, driftwood releases a lot of dioxin from combustion of salt-soaked wood. Dioxins are carginogenic, so burning driftwood from beaches is not recommended.

Some coastal communities have considered burn bans on driftwood to reduce the levels of pollution from the smoke. All smoke contains particulates which can cause health problems when the smoke is inhaled, but you may have been unaware of the additional issue with burning driftwood.