A Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) study finds that most firework injuries actually occur in the month around July 4th and not on Independence Day.
In fact, 65% of all fireworks injuries in 2011 were sustained in the 30 days surrounding the holiday; more than half caused by unexpected device ignition or consumers not using fireworks as intended. Fireworks injuries typically caused burns to the hands and head, including the eyes, face, and ears. Sparklers, firecrackers, and aerial devices were the biggest culprits.
Some accidents are much more serious, even deadly. Last year, the Commission received reports of four consumers killed by either professional-grade or homemade firework devices; some 9,600 consumers were injured. “For thousands of consumers, last year’s 4th of July celebration ended with a visit to the emergency room,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “CPSC wants you to understand the risks with legal and illegal fireworks, in order to prevent an injury, or worse, during this holiday.”
Most fireworks injury reports involve emergency room treatment and release; however, more severe and fatal injuries are linked to consumer use of professional-grade and homemade fireworks. Reports of faster-than-expected explosions and unpredictable flight paths of aerial devices have been tragic. In the four reported fireworks-related deaths, victims were killed when the illegal devices exploded, causing severe trauma to the head and face, and, in one horrific incident, decapitation. Other victims reportedly suffered severe burns and finger amputations.
Speaking from the Washington Monument, Chairman Tenenbaum led the CPSC’s yearly fireworks press event, including a demonstration of the dangers associated with fireworks and injury prevention steps. Chairman Tenenbaum was joined by Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and Cynthia Quarterman, Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration with the Department of Transportation (DOT). The group also discussed continued import surveillance and enforcement to prevent hazardous firework devices from reaching the U.S. marketplace.
The CPSC urged consumers who purchase legal fireworks to follow these safety steps:
- Ensure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals.
- Always have an adult closely supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices.
- Avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper since this often signals fireworks made for professional displays, which could pose a danger to consumers.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse; back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks; soak them in water and discard them.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
A copy of the CPSC fireworks study is available here.