Ah, Independence Day fireworks: What could be more ... Chinese? Yep, despite strong "Buy American" sentiments in other fields (the US military must fly made-in-America flags, for example), China still manufactures at least 98% of consumer fireworks and 75% of "display" fireworks (for big shows) sold in America, Politico reports. The US needs them because fireworks production is "very, very labor-intensive," says a pyrotechnics expert. "Basically everything is still made by hand." What's more, she says, US safety and environmental regulations would make home-made fireworks about 10 times costlier for consumers.
China began grabbing the US fireworks market after Washington reestablished trade ties in 1979; by last year, the US was importing $213 million in fireworks, nearly all from China. Federal authorities grew alarmed in the 1980s and early 1990s over the lack of safety standards in Chinese fireworks, but now the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory has imposed stricter rules and says it inspects fireworks shipments before they leave China. Despite all this Chinese know-how, the US Army is making "greener" pyrotechnics that produce less hazardous smoke and leave behind fewer possibly toxic residues, NBC News reports. "Our goal is to spin this off to commercial applications," says an Army pyrotechnics chief. (Read about the connection between fireworks and war.)