For many people, celebrating our country’s independence includes setting off fireworks on and around the Fourth of July. While we may enjoy a spectacular fireworks display, remember that fireworks are explosives best left in the hands of professionals.
The use of fireworks by consumers is illegal in some states and strictly regulated in all, even where fireworks are labeled for consumer use. Adults planning to use fireworks to celebrate the holiday should first check the legal requirements of their state at USA.gov and take precautions to remain safe. Last year the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that 60 percent of fireworks-related injuries happened during the 30 days surrounding the July 4 holiday. Between June 22 and July 22, 2012, more than 5,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for fireworks injuries, and six were killed.
While the numbers vary from year to year, in the last 15 years between 8,500 and 9,800 people, on average, were severely injured each year using fireworks. That doesn’t include an additional 40 injuries reported in 2011 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) from 17,800 fires started by fireworks, resulting in an estimated $32 million in direct property damage.
Between the injuries directly related to the handling of fireworks and those caused indirectly by the fires, more than half involve burns to the hands, head and face as well as loss of limbs. Most injuries and fires are associated with malfunctioning fireworks or improper use. Malfunctions can include unexpected detonations, unexpected flight paths and dangerous debris, while improper use can include igniting fireworks too close to someone, lighting them in one’s hand and playing with lit or used fireworks.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association and National Council on Fireworks Safety, approximately 400 Americans annually will also lose sight in one or both eyes due to “malfunctioning” fireworks.
The U.S. Fire Administration reports that 92 percent of fireworks injuries involve items that are considered legal for consumers to use. In fact, approximately 1,000 of those injuries reported last year involved sparklers and bottle rockets – fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children. Yet children between ages 10 and 14 are at three times the risk of fireworks injuries as compared with the general population.
Several organizations, including the NFPA, are opposed to the sale and use of consumer fireworks. More information and testimonials about the potential dangers of consumer fireworks is available at the NFPA website.
Fireworks laws vary widely, and warnings issued by the National Safety Council and other agencies advise that the best way to safely enjoy this Fourth of July is to watch a public fireworks display conducted by professionals.