Contact 13 uncovered disturbing details about colored powders used at local fun runs and events. Chief Investigator Darcy Spears found the colorful clouds could hold hidden hazards.
While many of these events are promoted as safe and family friendly, there are serious risks. Not only can it be hazardous to your health -- the powder could literally burst into flames.
5k runs. Concerts. D.J. parties. Parades. Whatever the reason to draw a crowd why not make a splash and throw in some color? That's clearly the trend these days, with three color runs this month alone in Las Vegas.
Colorful powders are tossed in the air or sprayed over crowds making for a dazzling display -- a rainbow adding to the festive scene. But colors can clash with safety.
"You could have an entire crowd enveloped in flames," says Naples Fire Department Chief Stephen McInerny.
That's exactly what happened in Taiwan last summer at a concert. Colors were sprayed into the crowd when a plume of powder turned into a giant fireball. Nearly 500 people burned. 12 died. Investigators believe the powder may have ignited from heated lights or possibly a cigarette.
"Well, I think it's even worse than we could've imagined," says Chief McInerny.
Firefighters show just how flammable one of the cornstarch-based powder samples can be as they toss it up in the air or blow it over candles or flames. The powder ignites when blown over creating flame-thrower like effect.
We shared the video with retired Clark County firefighter Scott Allison.
It could be an accident waiting to happen. The right situation could be as simple as a heat source connecting with the colored powder.
"Even static electricity or maybe a cigarette," says Allison. And that could ignite hair, clothes, or anything else it touches.
And fire isn't the only hazard. The stuff can be harmful if inhaled -- especially to young children like one of many we saw being pushed through a color cloud in a stroller during a recent event in Las Vegas.
"Our lungs, our eyes, our nose, the way we breath this stuff in, you have to take precautions there as well." says Allison.
We reached out to several event promoters. Color Vibe with the following statement:
Thanks for contacting Color Vibe. Safety is our #1 priority so we appreciate the opportunity to provide details on our color powder and processes. Since 2012 the Color Vibe has held over 300 events in the US and Canada with over 1,000,000 participants and not a single fire related incident.
Color Vibe's custom powder is made from cornstarch, baking soda, and food grade colorants. Our proprietary formula and manufacturing process makes Color Vibe powder non-flammable.
Color Vibe's powder is manufactured in the USA exclusively for Color Vibe and is created using a proprietary "wet suspension" process that meets the highest US manufacturing standards. This "wet suspension" process and our custom formulation makes our powder nonflammable and is therefore much safer than other color powders that are produced in India, Taiwan, and other parts of the world.
This information is all publicly available on our website at http://www.thecolorvibe.com/safety.php
In addition, we do have multiple safety measures that include:
- Color Vibe events are always held in an open outdoor area where the powder is able to dissipate quickly.
- No industrial lights, blacklights, or other heat producing light sources are used at our events since we only hold daytime events.
- A gap is required between the stage and the public.
- Fire, pyrotechnics, flames, and fireworks are prohibited.
- Smoking is prohibited.
We encourage people to make sure they sign up with a reputable company, like Color Vibe, that uses only high quality color powder that is made in the USA.