less-toxic-wasteDo you know that 30 million flares will expire in the next 3 years?

Do you know that, of these 30 million flares, only 9% are disposed of properly, with the rest being illegally set off, thrown in household garbage or even tossed directly into the very waters on which we boat (research provided by John Adriany, Principal Scientist)?

“The connection between flares and water is not always clear to boaters. We need to have a discussion about chemistry to truly understand it,” said John Adriany, Principal Scientist at Chemetrics.

According to research provided by Adriany, the problem with disposing of flares isn’t the flares themselves, but the perchlorate contained within them.

Perchlorate is a stable, toxic chemical that is used to support a burning fire in pyrotechnics. When improperly disposed of, it can remain in the soil for many years, eventually coming in contact with ground and drinking water sources. Once contaminated, is very difficult to separate perchlorates from water because of the similarities in molecular composition.

“New technology recently allowed us to see [perchlorates] for the very first time,” said Adriany. “We realize that there are trace amounts in almost all of our water. Trace amounts matter, because they affect our health.”

When people are exposed to high levels of perchlorates over time, it can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iodine, having a negative impact on the thyroid. The thyroid regulates key metabolic functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

A 2005 study done by the State of Rhode Island revealed that just one improperly disposed of flare can contaminate about 240,000 gallons of water.

“[Now] we know the problem, we can do something about it,” said Anthony Covelli, CEO of Sirius Signal.

Sirius Signal, a San Diego-based start-up, recently released the SOS Distress Light as a response to the growing pollution concerns of pyrotechnic flares. Their light is a non-pyrotechnic marine distress device that complies with all U.S. Coast Guard 46 CFR 161.013 night visual distress signal requirements.

Covelli said the SOS Distress Light is a one-time purchase that contains no perchlorates, because it runs off LED light, instead of pyrotechnics. You can use the SOS light by simply turning the on/off dial, activating a light that is visible over 10 nautical miles for several hours.

Recent state legislatures – including California – have made attempts to clean up our water. However, no Federal laws currently exist for flare disposal.

Until then, each flare that is disposed of improperly will only add to the surmounting problem. For now, the responsibility to reduce water contamination from flares lands squarely on the shoulders of our boaters.

However, even those aware of the pollution risks, find the cost of proper flare disposal to be prohibitive and they haven’t had any other viable options available to them in the past.

Sirius Signal hopes to change that with their SOS Distress Light.

“[We] give recreational boaters that choice,” said Covelli. “For the first time, we have a Coast Guard compliant alternative to dangerous and toxic marine flares.”

Written by Averi Melcher, Digital Content Manager for Sirius Signal.