Fireworks and medicine have more in common than you may think. As we celebrate American independence, take a moment to think about the variety of ways humanity has learned to use the chemicals and substances around us. We’re pretty innovative, and also fairly certain we haven’t even come close to discovering everything this world has to offer us.
Check out the chemicals and substances that give fireworks their color, and how they compare in the medical world:
A red firework gets its color from either Lithium or Strontium. Lithium gives the medium red tones, while Strontium produces a stronger, more intense red. Lithium, in the medical world is primarily used as a psychiatric medication and is used to treat major depressive disorders like Bipolar Disorder. Strontium, on the other hand, is used in advanced cases of prostate cancer and bone cancer.
Blue fireworks get their color from Copper. Powdered copper is placed inside the firework shell and, when it ignites, we see beautiful blue colors. In medicine, doctors are studying the use of copper to target and destroy cancer cells.
A green firework comes from Barium, which is also used to coath the throat, esophagus, stomach, and intestines so that they more clearly show in CT scans and other X-rays.
Yellow fireworks come from sodium, also known as… Salt. Sodium bicarbonate, in particular, is used to treat hearburn, indigestion, and upset stomach. It’s fantastic for toning down stomach juices!
White fireworks get their color from Aluminum and Magnesium. Aluminum hydroxide reduces phosphate levels in certain kidney conditions. Magnesium is used in bowel surgery preparation.
Surprisingly, orange fireworks get their color from Calcium. We are all familiar with calcium, as it is added to fortified foods and shows up in conversations about drinking milk. Unsurpisingly, calcium is used to treat osteoporosis, weak bones and hypoparathyroidism.
As you can see, fireworks and medicine have a lot more in common than one would normally believe. The same colors that burn beautifully and light up our night skies can be used to diagnose, treat, and prevent problems within the body!