Cornstarch can be easily ignited when dispersed in a dust cloud, as a June 2015 explosion during a Taiwan water park event showed.

Taiwan Water Park Explosion Sounds Alarm: NFPA

Colored powder events where cornstarch is the main ingredient aren't benign, a public affairs intern's post reminds us.

In a sobering Aug. 20 post, NFPA public affairs intern Ryan Sweezey reminds us that colored powder incidents can be dangerous. He described a June 27 explosion that injured almost 500 people at a water park in Taiwan when a colored powder exploded. "As of August 12, eleven people have died and dozens of victims remain in intensive care. Some of the injured suffered burns on 80 to 90 percent of their bodies," Sweezey wrote.

Color runs are popular in North America and elsewhere; most participants probably are not aware that the powder readily ignites when dispersed as a dust cloud, he added.

The main ingredient in the powder at the Taiwan park was cornstarch; Sweezey explains that it can be easily ignited. "FOX News reported the possibility that a cigarette or spark served as the ignition source that triggered the explosion of colored powder as it was being sprayed into the crowd from a stage. Wang Wei-Sheng, a liaison with the New Taipei City fire department command center, reinforced this premise, stating during an interview with USA Today that the powder ignited along the ground, mainly burning people's lower bodies," he wrote.

He spoke with Guy Colonna, NFPA's division manager of Industrial and Chemical Engineering, who said cornstarch is a combustible solid that forms a very fine powder and can create a combustible dust cloud.

"Spraying the powder over the crowd as was done in Taipei enhances the dust cloud dispersion and formation. At many events, the material is distributed via compressed air cylinders which can potentially cause an ignition hazard from generation of static charge. The unfortunate June incident in Taiwan has prompted many questions across the globe about the use of colored powder at high-traffic events," he wrote.

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