Dazzling but dangerous

By Kimberly Jenkins - kjenkins@aimmediamidwest.com

Bang! Bang! Bang! The sounds of fireworks will soon be christening the sky as the United States celebrates its Independence Day. As July 4 rapidly approaches, streets will be littered with erupting noise makers.

Some people like the sounds, others do not. Most people love the bright lights. Children like the entirety of celebrations during the early days of the month. Keeping all this fun in mind, it is easy to forget that as spectacular as fireworks can be, they contain a certain amount of danger that is sometimes forgotten.

Fireworks are synonymous with the celebration of Independence Day. Yet, the thrill of fireworks can also bring pain. Approximately 230 people go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries pertaining to the July 4th holiday. The office of Prevent Blindness warns Ohioans about the dangers of backyard fireworks.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), estimated that injuries from fireworks sent 11,900 Americans to the emergency room in 2015. Nearly 50 percent of injuries were to bystanders and 26 percent to children under 15 years of age. Sadly, the CPSC also reported 11 non-occupational fireworks-related deaths.

The CPSC states that burns from fireworks are the most common injury to all parts of the body, except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eyes occurred more frequently. The most frequently injured body parts are the hands, head/neck, and eyes. Cuts, bumps and bruises are the most common injuries to the head. In addition to blindness, third degree burns and permanent scarring, fireworks also cause life-threatening home and motor vehicle fires. Last year 1900 fireworks injuries were to the eye and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately one third of eye injuries from fireworks result in permanent blindness.

There has been a steep increase in consumer fireworks injuries as more states legalize their use. Fireworks laws vary from state to state. Unfortunately, more and more states are going the route of legalization with dire consequences. Since 2008, five additional states have legalized discharge of consumer grade fireworks and during that same period of time, serious injuries increased by 60 percent from 2.3 injuries per 100,000 population in 2008 to 3.7 injuries per 100,000 populations in 2015. There are 43 states plus Washington D.C. that allow some or all types of consumer fireworks. Ohio is one of four states that allow only wire or wood stick sparklers or other novelty items; the others are Illinois, Indiana, & Vermont. There are three states that ban all consumer fireworks, Deleware, Maine, & New Jersey.

A recent study published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research, concluded that the relaxing of fireworks laws in the United States has had a dramatic effect on the severity of the related injuries, resulting in more inpatient admissions and longer length of stay in the hospital.

Prevent Blindness believes that there is no safe way to use fireworks and supports the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except those used in authorized public displays by competent licensed operators. The non-profit group works with leading organizations to educate the public on the dangers of consumer fireworks and endorses legislation to help protect adults and children from needless injuries from fireworks.

In addition to the many healthcare groups and fire departments that oppose fireworks legalization, other opponents are animal advocates that report that dog shelters are overrun around the July 4, with dogs that have been startled by fireworks discharges and run off. Farmers similarly express concerns as fireworks can startle cattle and other livestock or cause damage to crops. Veterans suffering from PTSD endure symptoms and stress brought on by fireworks discharge.

Some of this can be avoided, by following these safety tips when using fireworks:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants; use eye protection.
  • Use light thermal gloves like what you use for the grill.
  • Never light fireworks while under the influence.
  • 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.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • 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.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them. https://www.cpsc.gov/

By Kimberly Jenkins