Black smoke is caused by a full conversion of the burning material into carbon particles. White smoke is caused by a less complete conversion, usually due to a lower burning temperature. Black smoke, for example, is released by burning oil and petroleum products, which are relatively efficient transformations. How hazardous smoke is is measured by usually its opacity rather than its color. The more opaque the smoke is, the more pollutants and impure particles are in it. Historically, however, many states in the US used the Ringelmann chart which measured smoke density on a grey to black scale for pollution limits.
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