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Scientific look at fireworks and the smoke they leave behind

Chemistry is behind the red, white and blue fireworks we see on the Fourth of July.

ST. LOUIS — Chemistry is behind the red, white and blue fireworks we see on Independence Day.

Red fireworks get their color from lithium and strontium. Yes, lithium, like the batteries. While you might not be as familiar with strontium, you've probably stepped on it or even swam in it. Strontium can be found in soil and seawater.

How about those bold white fireworks? If you like spinach, nuts and whole grains, then you probably eat a lot of it. Magnesium produces the bright white fireworks.

And last but not least, the blue. A common material in piping, copper, makes up the majestic blue hues.

Fireworks fill the sky with light, but they'll also fill it with smoke. Overnight, a shallow stable layer will form. The stable layer traps the smoke close to the surface. When we wake up Tuesday, it will look like a thin brown fog has enveloped the city.

The thin brown fog is haze, pollution left behind by the fireworks. The smoke will filter out the greens, blues and purples we usually see around sunrise and sunset. On hazy days, our eyes see mostly reds, oranges and yellows.

We can look forward to a bolder sunrise and sunset Tuesday, thanks in part to all those fireworks Monday night.

RELATED: How do fireworks work? A pyrotechnics chemist explains

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