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Compressed air launching of fireworks gets rid of the gunpowder, but not the perchlorate and toxic heavy metals. That means that those 60,000 pounds of fireworks Disney uses are primarily perchlorate, heavy metals, plastic and paper.

All of this perchlorate can be eliminated according a former Los Alamos explosives chemist Mike Hiskey who cofounded a company called DMD Systems that produces perchlorate-free fireworks with about a tenth the amount of barium used in the kind of fireworks AEG will likely use.

Using nitrocellulose as fuel and replacing perchlorate with nitrates as oxidizer, the resultant propulsion and burst produces only stable gases like water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen cutting down greatly on smoke and small particulates. Not only are a wider palette of hues available, there are new formulations of colors resulting in deeper reds and blues impossible to achieve with the fireworks both AEG and Disney use.

In addition, illuminated night kite shows, laser shows and holographic fireworks are all technologies within reach of any large entertainment company like AEG, Disney, Universal Studios and Six Flags that want to truly own the “green fireworks and special effects” mantle.

But don’t look for it in Los Angeles at Farmers Field. This expensive endeavor has been planned down to the tiniest details making the exclusion of the perchlorate data puzzling at best. Cheap Chinese perchlorate filled fireworks are, well – cheaper.


The Los Angeles Times boosterism of the AEG project seems to have blinded it to a more critical examination of the Farmers Field EIR. Hostility directed at community activists making the op-ed pages isn’t a replacement for in-depth investigative journalism.

“AEG’s already agreed to dozens of community benefits, but if it won’t accept more, the project’s critics want the council to send the environmental impact report back for more work,” opined Jim Newton. “And if that doesn’t work, they’re threatening to sue. Of course, one person’s mitigation request is another’s idea of extortion.”

This was preceded the day earlier in the paper by an unsigned editorial entitled “An L.A.-friendly football stadium” which made this prescient observation: “The final negotiations regarding the football stadium revolve around the project’s environmental impact report, a 10,000-page document that the council members have almost certainly not read.”

Had the Times actually read the 11,149-page DEIR and then the 3,610-page FEIR a little closer it might have noticed that demands for better pollution mitigation weren’t extortion. Perchlorate which doesn’t distinguish between people in Pico Union or South Park or the employees, players, performers and fans of Farmers Field.

Taking the residents seriously and obeying environmental laws related to compounds as dangerous as perchlorate could have the added benefit of protecting against potential future lawsuits over the missing fireworks data, data that almost certainly involves large amount of perchlorate use. Those lawsuits could target the city and, if successful, end up costing the taxpayers plenty because their government was too cozy with the developer and the media too enfeebled to expose it.

After the unanimous vote late last night, the Times couldn’t help but lampoon community advocates once again with the provocative headline “Anti-poverty group seeks $60 million from NFL stadium developer” making it look like one of the Play Fair Farmers Field coalition members, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, was being insanely greedy. Actually the request was for $2 million a year for 30 years.

AEG claimed to reporter David Zahniser that they could have “had a deal by now” if it had paid the group off its $10 million demand. That below the belt – and inaccurate – accusation seems to indicate AEG’s inclination to perhaps, well, not play fair.

For now, however, activists are still sounding a conciliatory tone.

“You know if the happiest place on Earth can do it, I think AEG can do it,” Argüello says. “I see no reason why they couldn’t, given their commitment to environmental stewardship, or why they wouldn’t be able to get this new technology into their stadium so they can tout their sustainability practices.”

Don’t hold your breath. Until you have to.

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  1. Even Phil Anschutz sees his downtown collection of Vegas-type entertainment/sports venues as a liability. So he is selling them. Perhaps LA officials can take a hint.
    The best way to do what you want is to just do it. It is easier to apologize than ask for permission. And so it goes with the toxic fireworks. The less said, the better.

  2. No reason then to continue to use this heavy metal in the fireworks as there are alternatives. However, it begs the question; Why do they insist to continue? Well, there is another rabbit hole to go down starting with the word “Agenda”? Thank you Michael for the great article!

  3. Judging from the dearth of media coverage of this amazing discovery, it appears Collins is right about the press (mainstream and otherwise) being too “enfeebled to expose it.” That won’t, however, make the problem go away even if this dirty secret is swept under the football field. The law is the law. If this plan to use who-knows-how-much perchlorate in the fireworks at Farmers Field is pushed through by the Los Angeles city council without coming to a full-stop by requiring AEG to pony up with the toxic numbers, there could be big trouble. Low income (and high income) residents won’t even know about this stealthy perchlorate plan unless the public and community advocates make a stink about it and demand that the fireworks are pollution free. Surely, the money spent actually becoming the environmental leader in fireworks displays and new technology grand entertainment would cost AEG significantly less money than the cost that could face the company when the wafts of perchlorate and heavy metals begin impacting people from the day the place opens. It costs the city council nothing to stand up for the health and well being of the visitors to Farmers Field and the neighborhoods around it by requiring AEG to release the true ingredients (and amounts) in the fireworks and then demanding that the company go back to the drawing board to make sure that they be made harmless. This would make AEG and the city of LA the leaders in ‘green fireworks’ far more than the happiest kingdom on earth which still uses perchlorate yet touts its less smoky pyrotechnics. We deserve no less. The people fighting this fraudulent environmental impact report deserve no less. They must demand these fundamental changes before it is too late.

  4. Another excellent expose’ by Mr. Collins.

    This explains why I’ve noticed an increase in particulate pollution in air-quality-animated-maps after holidays/occasions where fireworks were used.

    ( Each state’s environmental department should have its own animated map that you can google to find, but here’s one for the U.S. — http://airnow.gov/ )

  5. Interesting how the trolls (Scott S. Smith) are always the first to jump on the truth with their ludicrous, vicious, and psychopathic comments. Anyone want to place bets that HE doesn’t live next to the proposed stadium?

  6. @SS Smith: there is a large body of research on the toxicity of heavy metals from exploded fireworks from within the water quality field. As a result of tested, peer-reviewed scientific evidence, many cities (particularly in the Great Lakes region) have already taken steps to change the types of fireworks used or ban them if non-toxic ones aren’t available. Your rhetoric and insults are infantile and aren’t going to bait anyone to respond in kind. Instead, you are providing a platform for a deeper discussion of the scientific soundness behind Michael’s pieces.

  7. If being a ‘red-blooded’ American means ‘symbols’ are more important than the health of children, then please count me out.

    I am ‘Earthling’ first!

    Borders are imaginary lines.

  8. Every time I read an article on perchlorate use, I’m reminded afresh of how stupid people are. In particular, it’s amazing how anything but profits are ignored by the tools running these large corporations.

  9. @Scott S. Smith – not sure what you are promoting here – if fire works are a symbol of freedom – can’t they also be in a form that would not contain perchlorate and not endanger the health of Americans?

    Michael Collins has done a lot of research and given a rational and in depth account of this problem – name calling has no place in an intelligent conversation on how to protect people’s air and water from a dangerous substance.

    Thank goodness we have Michael who is willing to take the time and energy to investigate yet another threat to the health of the environment and the American people. Why on earth would anyone “put him in jail”? Michael is doing what very few people are doing – watching out for our environment and telling us about what he finds. We are incredibly fortunate to have him in our lives.

  10. No red-blooded American should stand for regulating fireworks of any color–they’re the symbol of freedom and anarchy is one of the founding principles of this country. I think Collins should be deported to whatever socialist country his ancestors claim to be from and he can argue his pinko theories there, if they don’t put him in jail first.

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