Forums > Technical Discussion > coloured flames and toxicity

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s-p-l-a-t
member
Location: Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Member Since: 8th Mar 2001
Total posts: 383
Posted:does anyone have a recipe for any coloured flames that don't involve using super toxic chemicals? Cause the ones I have looked at all sound a lot worse in the toxicity department than low odour kerosene.also, does anyone know if kerosene is more toxic than low odour or is it the other way round? cause I was thinking since additives to the chemicals make it that much more toxic (i.e. odour-controlling additives and additives that change the colour or whatever) - wouldn't low odour kero have more stuff packed into than average kero?or does it come down to basically just where you get it from cause its all such a different mix all over the place?just curious =)

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.- B.B.King

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onewheeledweirdo
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Location: Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Member Since: 23rd Mar 2001
Total posts: 35
Posted:good luck...

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s-p-l-a-t
member
Location: Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Member Since: 8th Mar 2001
Total posts: 383
Posted:thanks ... =(

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.- B.B.King

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adamrice
adamrice

poo-bah
Location: Austin TX USA
Member Since: 19th Dec 2000
Total posts: 1015
Posted:I dunno, I've been using this lamp oil that say it is "99% pure paraffin", low smoke low odor. Someone told me that the other 1% is benzene, which is extremely toxic (then again, I'm not fire-breathing), but neither he nor I have verified this.Also, I've been told that the coloring additives tend to wear out your wicks faster, and that once a wick has been soaked in a coloring additive, it keeps that color flame, but again, I haven't verified this. Anyone?

Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

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megstar
member
Location: no fixed abode
Member Since: 16th Mar 2001
Total posts: 5
Posted:have you been to www.geocities.com/firepoi ?this has a good fuel guide (if I remember rightly).also, I am planning to use boric acid to colour my flame green/blue and I thought this was pretty non-toxic. I am absolutely not a chemist, though! good luck.

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moiravoid
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Location: oakland, ca
Member Since: 30th Mar 2001
Total posts: 8
Posted:if your doing a show dont tell the audience its roach poison ( boric acid )your using....they freak out.

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megstar
member
Location: no fixed abode
Member Since: 16th Mar 2001
Total posts: 5
Posted:I didn't know it killed roaches - I didn't know anything killed those tenacious little buggers.the site that I mentioned above contains a link through to www.redox.com.au/msds/ which tells you about any specific chemical you want to use, so that could be helpful.

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moiravoid
member
Location: oakland, ca
Member Since: 30th Mar 2001
Total posts: 8
Posted:yea....you can buy a big container of boric acid for 4 bucks at the hardware store.....its sold as roach poison.

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onewheeledweirdo
member
Location: Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Member Since: 23rd Mar 2001
Total posts: 35
Posted:colours [ chemical ]red/orange [ calcium ]purple [ potassium ]intense yellow [ table salt ]blue [ mineral turpentine }green ( copper sulfate ]aqua [ chloride ]I know that they are not non-toxic but that doesn't mean they are not fun...good luck finding non-toxic ones or suppliers

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Dr.NoodleHead
member
Location: The Giant Mushroom
Member Since: 22nd Mar 2001
Total posts: 170
Posted:Hmmm, long time since my chemistry lessons, but I think that it's the metal ion that gives the colour, but toxicity depends on what the ion is complexed with (e.g. the salt). So yes, barium carbonate is a rather yukky rat poison, but barium sulphate is pretty innocuous - they actually feed it to you in hospitals if you're having a gut X-ray. However, if you're burning these things in the presence of a whole load of other oragnic molecules (like, well, most fuels) I'm really not sure what kind of compounds you'd be cooking up. However, since burning organic molecules produces lots of nasties all by itself, I suppose the whole thing is relative (how many of you smoke cigarettes?). Anyway, here's another list of fun goodies to think about....I'll try and find out a wee bit more from some real life chemists.Sodium: golden-yellow Potassium: violet (lilac) Lithium: carmine-red Calcium: red-orange Strontium: crimson Barium, molybdenum: yellow-green Borates, copper (except halides), thallium: green Lead, arsenic, antimony, bismuth, copper: blueCopper halides or other copper salts moistened with hydrochloric acid: blue-greenStrontium: scarlet

Fish are just like trees except they move and they're invisible

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ykaterina
member
Location: east randolph, VT USA
Member Since: 16th Jan 2001
Total posts: 107
Posted:shit!!have you read the redox sheet on boric acid??i was all set to head out and get some (*loves* green and blue!) but now i'm sufficiently scared!what's it like, those who have tried it. are the fumes really so dangerous? ack!

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s-p-l-a-t
member
Location: Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Member Since: 8th Mar 2001
Total posts: 383
Posted:umm.. I *was* looking for non-toxic additives for colour in my fire...ykat - yeah I read the Boric Acid info and freaked out too - which was why I posted my original message.Boric acid is somehow ok cause it is only used for cockroach killing? Doesn't that say enough by itself, cockroaches survive a-bombs! my bf has used copper sulphate i think - but he said it had all the warnings similar to boric acid all over it. Subsequently he didn't use it often or since then.I have basically lost my desire for coloured flames over reading redox info. Almost wish I hadn't had the desire to be 'informed' =)

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.- B.B.King

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Dr.NoodleHead
member
Location: The Giant Mushroom
Member Since: 22nd Mar 2001
Total posts: 170
Posted:Ditto Splat, I'm also rather going off this whole idea - I asked a pro chemist for his opinion and he said the following......... "About the flame colouring ideas - frankly my first reaction was disquiet! My next was to warn you absolutely against Thallium and Arsenic in that order.They are no fun to handle properly and can both play nasty tricks - not least because of volatility, and extreme toxicity which is often insidious and cumulative. 'Nuff said. You are right about Barium Sulphate.It is too insoluble.But you have to remember the flame is only coloured becausethe element is released free into the flame, and inhlation of a poison is often the most efficient route of administration. It is one thing to do the occasional flame test on a mg. or so, but quite another to have alarge flame running for a minute or two (120 secs. maybe?), and inhaling of course as you practice."I think I'll probably stick to flame-coloured flames......on the other hand - does anyone one know any theatrical special effects people? They have loads of pyrotechnic goodies that have presumably been "safety approved" since they're often used indoors. Hmmmm, smoke trails, sparklies and then finishing with exploding pois - hubba hubba!!

Fish are just like trees except they move and they're invisible

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Posted:I've done a bit of looking into colored flames using alcohol and a metal salt. As far as I can tell Boric acid is pretty safe. Being in the "if you eat enough of it you can die" category. Otherwise exposure to small amounts is pretty safe.I think the following are pretty safe.Table Salt --> Yellow.Calcium Cloride --> Orange.Boric Acide --> Green/Yellow.Other things to think about.You can't color parrafin flames because the orange 'black body' radiation from the soot in the flame swamps any other color.You have to get the metal ion into the flame. The problem being is that the flame is burning vapor and the salt is disovled in the _liquid_.Hmmm....

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the streaking wombat
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Location: Los Angeles
Member Since: 10th Jun 2001
Total posts: 10
Posted:well, i'm new, but it's getting close to the 4th of july, so my brain is cooking up ideas with fireworks...i was thinking of the little colored strobe thingies...but i think this equates to trying to poi with flares...seems a bad idea to hit yourself with something that burns so hot...next thought was smoke in the daytime...maybe rigging up different colors or such...hmm...just random thoughts..------------------this fire and i dance among the stars

this fire and i dance among the stars

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emthren
member
Location: Sydney
Member Since: 31st May 2001
Total posts: 57
Posted:Potassium Permanganate seems to be the choice for purple flames.Seems to be relativly safe as per MSDS, except it says that "Forms sensitive explosive mixtures with ... sulphur". Isn't that what gives kero the smoke/smell? Anyway, there's probably not enough sulpher in there all the same...I remember we used to burn this stuff over bunsens in science class, don't think it's extremly toxic, but long term effects... who knows.Shall experiment on rags beforehand. =)

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NYC_not_PK
NYC_not_PK

One Tyred Guy
Location: Camaiore, Lu, Italy
Member Since: 13th May 2001
Total posts: 203
Posted:Real live chemist here... Dr. Noodlehead is right on about both the colors and the toxicity depending on the anion. I try to stick with metal-chlorides when doing flame tests in my class. My kids love to burn LiCl (lithium chloride) because it gives such a deep red color. I do know that the metals stick around for EVER in the bunsen burners so I wouldn't be surprised to find some of your wicks burning perminantly a different color after dipping in a metal solution.You may want to call some of the chemistry suppliers and pull the whole "Hi I'm a chemistry teacher and I'd like a catelog..." As most of them have the warnings listed for each of the chemicals as well as the prices and such...If anybody has any specific chemistry questions I'll gladly look something up for ya!

PK is a god.. i love the Peeekster.

.:PK:. [poiinthepark founder member]


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing smileSTAY SAFE! hug

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firefly
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Location: germany
Member Since: 29th Mar 2001
Total posts: 52
Posted:i'm a bit late.so how much do you have to add,for example,from the boric acid?

frank bentzin

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skapegoat
member
Location: golden, co
Member Since: 14th Jul 2001
Total posts: 3
Posted:the reason why barium sulfate is not hazardous and can be used in X-rays is that it is completely insoluble. it's insolubility is what allows the X-ray to see it, and being insoluble it doesn't matter the toxicity of the barium itself, as none of it will dissolve in your bloodstream. because the barium sulfate is insoluble, there is no reason to even consider it as a potential flame colorant, as it first must dissolve in the fuel. i am quite confident that other than the organic fuel combustion products which are potential carcinogens and unavoidable by anyone performing with fire, the major hazard is from the metal species of any salt used for coloring and not the sulfur, chloride, etc. these simply help in determining the extent to which the salt will dissolve in the solvent/fuel. some metals such as Calcium, Potassium, etc. (most 1st or 2nd row of Periodic chart metals) are not at all dangerous, while others such as lead arsenic, antimony, and mercury are quite harmful. For other elements, consult an MSDS(http://www.geocities.com/firepoi/)for safety. also note that the MSDS must be read carefully to determine exactly what the dangers are. with Boric Acid, for instance, many of the health hazards listed are for prolonged exposure to large quantities of solid air borne particles, not with small amounts dissolved in a burning fuel. i would consider any health hazards from using Boric Acid as a flame colorant to be minimal in comparison to the health hazards from being in close proximity to the benzenated byproducts of any burning organics such as the fuel that we all use.

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NYC_not_PK
NYC_not_PK

One Tyred Guy
Location: Camaiore, Lu, Italy
Member Since: 13th May 2001
Total posts: 203
Posted:I 100% agree with skapegoat. I looked up the toxicity of both in the Merck Index and found that Boric Acid is pretty bad IF you eat it. Death has been reported in adults from injesting doses from 5-20 g. On the other hand, I didn't see much in the way on warnings from breathing small amounts of it.Kerosine (and other fuels) have considerable warnings about inhalation (Headache, drowsyness, coma.)If you're really worried about toxic chemicals, you picked the wrong hobby.
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[Yeah, yeah, there are still plenty of ways to limit your exposure, pick less toxic fuels, etc...]


PK is a god.. i love the Peeekster.

.:PK:. [poiinthepark founder member]


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing smileSTAY SAFE! hug

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DJ Dantana
veteran
Location: Stillwater, Ok. USA
Member Since: 15th Aug 2001
Total posts: 1495
Posted:Hey guys, I have a great idea, It is called a GAS MASK, maybe you have heard of it!!!Seriousely, I was thinking of colored flames the other day, and the chemists are right, most of that stuff is some preaty wicked stuff. But....a good quality GAS MASK should filter out most of the nasties. Being a biologist and chemistry teach myself, I would not suggest using the vast majority of chemicaly available, especialy since inhaling the fumes is a VERY good way to absorb the stuff into your system. You can buy curent issue military surplus gas masks (Isreali, german, etc) for about ten dollars (USA) through the mail, on the net, etc. and the top quality ones run about $50-200. Realy guys, even some of those gas masks that just cover the mouth and nose would work. Maybe we should all start using masks for regular flame twirling too. It might look funny, but isn't your health worth it?

we eat and we drink and we smoke and we try!

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Chotys
member

Member Since: 15th Jul 2001
Total posts: 91
Posted:Hey guys,what was so bad about reading that redox thing that put you so off using chemicals such as boric acid? I read it and i'm still going to use it...hell it won't kill you unless you relly try...think about it...if you are only using it a few times every now and then and aren't exposed to the fumes hours on end and you don't stick the stuff directly in your mouth or inhale the damn stuff your pretty safe? I'm getting some boric acid from the chemist tomorrow or the day after so after i use it i'll tell y'all what it was like and if i'm still alive.See y'all l8r:Chotys:

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DJ Dantana
veteran
Location: Stillwater, Ok. USA
Member Since: 15th Aug 2001
Total posts: 1495
Posted:Dear Chotys and everybody else, What was the LD 50 (leathal dose for 50 percent of test subjects per body weight) for boric acid? 5-20 grams leathal dose for adult human? Remember, you will be burning this stuff, Which will turn it into an arosol (that is a "vapor" for the laymen out there) which you will be breathing. And 5 grams is not a whole lot. I don't have the MSDS in front of me, but a lot of chemicals can have a cumulative effect. Some prime examples are metals like Copper, Lead, Mercury, and Aluminum. I don't mean to be your mother or anything, I just want to make sure you are aware of what you are doing. And on another note, it is a good idea for us all to be on antioxidant vitamines like vitamins C, E, A, and the B vitamines, and folic acid (folate). Actuall a good multivitamine (with complete minerals too) would be great, with a little extra vitamin C of course. You see, most of the danger from burning hyrdrocarbon fuels comes from the carcinogenic (cancer causing) and mutinogenic (mutation causing) chemicals. Suplying your body with the proper nutrients will reduce the risk of getting cancer by an order of magnitude. some forms of cancer can be reversed with the right nutrients (the opposite phylosophy is chemotherapy) both work, but the nutrient method relies on strengthening the bodies immune system. In fact many doctors belive there are mutated cells forming in the body every day, but our immune systems deal with them no problemo. Well, I didn't mean to go off like that. It is just that natural healing and homeopathic medicine is a hobie of mine. no such thing as safe sex, just safer sex right?No such thing as safe twirling, just safer twirling. Right?I still think the gas mask idea is fool proof, even thought it is kind of wierd looking, but then so were "bell bottoms" when they first came out.

we eat and we drink and we smoke and we try!

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Finn
member
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Member Since: 23rd Dec 2000
Total posts: 341
Posted:A gas mask wouldn't look silly if it was incorporated into a post-apocolyptic Mad Max inspired costume! In fact, it would look pretty cool.I've been thinking about doing something like this for a gig that the Wick Effect have coming up. I'm pregnant and have been told by my doctor and mrmo_nyc - the home of poi's resident chemist, not to play with fire until after the baby is born. If I used a gas mask while performing I might be able to get away with it! Dont worry mrmo, I wouldn't make a habit of it!
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Finn
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DJ Dantana
veteran
Location: Stillwater, Ok. USA
Member Since: 15th Aug 2001
Total posts: 1495
Posted:yea, like something off of Mad Max. Complete with peircings, leather and chains? or maybe some body paint? It seems like most of us are realatively young, imagine how good we will be in 30 years... But we have to live that long first. might not hurt to start taking some precautions early on. Especialy when burning the highly toxic colored flames. Glad to hear about the good news Finn! congradulations. and, yea, don't make a habit out of twirling fire while pregnant...Peace Love FireDaniel

we eat and we drink and we smoke and we try!

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NYC_not_PK
NYC_not_PK

One Tyred Guy
Location: Camaiore, Lu, Italy
Member Since: 13th May 2001
Total posts: 203
Posted:Beware of gas masks... they obviously restrict your oxygen intake somewhat. You may start to feel dizzy if you're performing with a gasmask on which is because of the lack of oxygen you're getting while doing aerobic activity. Unless that's your fetish, but that's a whole other website.
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BUT... this just in... Boric acid has also been advertised as a disinfectant and eyewash! MY 100% boric acid is advertised as roach poison and has tons of warnings but I have heard of other 100% boric acid advertised as disinfectant and eyewash with very few warnings! This only makes sense if you think of the purity of it. If a company is marketing it for Roach Poison they can be less careful with the purity. If a company is marketing it as an eyewash they'll probably need to charge more as the purity of it will need to be higher. I'm off to my local drug store to find out!The LD50 for Boric Acid is high because we all agree that orally it's quite toxic... 5.14 g/kg (rats). The fatal doses of 5-20 grams was for humans. I am POSITIVE that it's bad to eat. Still workin' on it kids...There's also a thread open in the technical section for those who've actually used it.


PK is a god.. i love the Peeekster.

.:PK:. [poiinthepark founder member]


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing smileSTAY SAFE! hug

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kmactane
member
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Member Since: 25th Apr 2001
Total posts: 97
Posted:Finn--Don't forget that inhalation is only one vector for absorption of nasty chemicals. The other is through the skin. These suckers are all (as Mrmo has pointed out) organic solvents which means they'll go through bodily tissues (including both the skin and the placental wall) really easily.A gas mask will help, but it won't remove all the danger. (OTOH, a couple of celebratory glasses of wine or champagne during pregnancy won't give your child FAS -- there's a whole continuum of danger here; it's not a strict either/or situation.)Just wanted to point out the skin-absorption problem.

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NYC_not_PK
NYC_not_PK

One Tyred Guy
Location: Camaiore, Lu, Italy
Member Since: 13th May 2001
Total posts: 203
Posted:Good call yo.... True dat, true dat.

PK is a god.. i love the Peeekster.

.:PK:. [poiinthepark founder member]


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing smileSTAY SAFE! hug

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Finn
member
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Member Since: 23rd Dec 2000
Total posts: 341
Posted:Thanks kmactane.
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I'm aware of the risk of absorbing toxins through the skin too. I would ensure that my skin was covered.I wouldn't be twirling anyway, I'd just be part of the performance in a support role.Trust me, I'd be the last person to place their unborn baby at risk.Finn
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Posted:Be careful with gasmasks! Each type is made for specific chemicals. You may think you're safe, but you could be inhaling just as much with the wrong mask than unprotected. Also, someone asked a while ago if theatre people knew of any neat pyrotech tricks. There is stuff called flash paper and flash powder. If gives you a nice bright burst of light and some thick smoke. It would be pretty cool to see someone work it into poi. Any SFX for Theatre catalog would have it. Have fun!

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DJ Dantana
veteran
Location: Stillwater, Ok. USA
Member Since: 15th Aug 2001
Total posts: 1495
Posted:A good source of information as well as products are those scientific equipment retailers, They have cataloges that are three inces thick, and you can order all kinds of different gas masks, as well as a variety of filters for each one. Because gas masks are different, and there are different types of filters for diferent stuff. I am not certain, but I think activated carbon (charcol) is one of the best for filtering out nasties. The USA military uses it in their clothing to absorb toxic substances, (of course there are always exceptions) There is also clothing available to civilians that is basicaly the same as military (activated carbon), they are sold in deer hunting cataloges (eliminates odors, which are often aromatic organic compounds) "shotgunnews.com?" ,etc. this type of clothing should filter out the nasties, and as far as I know I think the military gas masks are probably preatty good to use. Please, somebody tell us if they find out otherwise. another hazzard is absorption through mucus membranes (eyes, mouth, vagina, anus, whatever...)yea, watch out!also, most gas masks tend to be bulky. also, if you have facial hair it will interfear with the seal...that is bad. I have an inexpensive Isreali mask, it works good as long as it is tite (one size fits all) but it is better to buy a high quality mask with a soft, silicon seal instead of medium hard rubber (isreali). the isreali mask is sort of uncomfortable to me when it is adjusted tight enough to seal, but maybe I am not adjusting it properly.

we eat and we drink and we smoke and we try!

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