Strontium - Elements in Fireworks

Elements in Fireworks

Strontium imparts a red color to fireworks.
Strontium imparts a red color to fireworks. TasiPas

Metal salts are important in fireworks and other pyrotechnics. One of the most common metallic elements is strontium, which is atomic number 38 on the periodic table, with element symbol Sr. However, the pure metal isn't used. Fireworks are made using strontium salts, especially strontium carbonate (SrCO3) and strontium nitrate (Sr(NO3)2). Strontium nitrate acts as both a colorant (the strontium part) and an oxidizer (the nitrate portion).

Strontium salts impart a red color to fireworks. Strontium compounds are also important for stabilizing fireworks mixtures. You'll find it in emergency flares, including road flares and flare guns.

Is Strontium Toxic?

Strontium is one of the safest metals found in fireworks (biologically speaking). As with other metals, it has its uses, but overexposure can lead to problems.

Strontium chloride is found in some toothpastes intended to reduce tooth sensitivity. It forms a barrier over the nerve endings in tooth dentin that is exposed by receding gums. Strontium supplements are available, said to aid bone health. In Europe, strontium ranelate is available by prescription to reduce fracture rate from osteoporosis. The strontium compounds available online or in the United States are more commonly strontium citrate or strontium chloride, which have not been shown to be effective for osteoporosis.

While exposure to trace levels of strontium isn't a concern, taking a large amount of it is associated with side effects, including blood clots and heart damage.

Sources

  • J. Paul MacMillan, Jai Won Park, Rolf Gerstenberg, Heinz Wagner, Karl Köhler, Peter Wallbrecht "Strontium and Strontium Compounds" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2005, Wiley-VCH: Weinheim.
  • O'Neill GT, Rolfe LR, Kaufman MH. "Developmental potential and chromosome constitution of strontium-induced mouse parthenogenones" (1991) Mol. Reprod. Dev.30:214-219​.
  • Pradyot Patnaik. Handbook of Inorganic Chemicals. McGraw-Hill, 2002.