Fireworks often epitomize summer and are a staple of Fourth of July celebrations.
A study completed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows, however, that the bright colors often have a dark side: About 240 people nationwide go to an emergency room with a fireworks-related injury each day in the month surrounding Independence Day.
According to the study, more than half of the injuries were burns. Even some minor fireworks products, such as sparklers, can burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is as hot as a blow torch.
The study also showed 41 percent of fireworks injuries are to a person’s arms, fingers or hands, and 38 percent are to a person’s eyes, head, face or ears.
Children account for approximately 45 percent of fireworks-related injuries, with the most common ages being 5 to 14. Those accidents usually involve sparklers and firecrackers, said Becky Mundy, education coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital’s Clifford R. Boeckman, MD, Regional Burn Center.
“Children are more susceptible to injury because they’re so curious when they see the colors from the fireworks or the fire,” Mundy said.
“They also have thin skin, so it burns easily.”
“The safest way to handle fireworks and other related items during the holiday is to watch a professional display by experts who have the proper training and experience to handle the explosives,” said Dr. Carol Cunningham, emergency medicine physician at Akron General Health System.
Ohio law allows non-professionals to use four novelties: sparklers, snakes, snaps and smoke bombs.
If fireworks are legal in your community, the American Academy of American Physicians strongly suggests that you do not use fireworks at home.
If fireworks are used at home, there are a few do’s and don’t’s.
• Have knowledgeable supervision by an experienced adult if you choose to use fireworks.
• Buy fireworks from reputable dealers.
• Read warning labels and follow all instructions.
• Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby.
• Light fireworks one at a time, them move back quickly.
• Dispose of all fireworks properly.
• Give any fireworks, including sparklers, to small children; older children should be supervised by a responsible adult.
• Light fireworks indoors or near other objects.
• Place your body over a fireworks device when trying to light the fuse.
• Point or throw fireworks at another person.
• Try to re-light or pick up malfunctioning fireworks.
• Wear loose clothing while using any fireworks.
• Set off fireworks in glass or metal containers. Fragments can cause severe injury.
• Carry fireworks in a pocket.
There also are several guidelines specific to having children present when using fireworks, including teaching children to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothes catch fire, making sure they know how to dial 9-1-1, showing them how to extinguish fires by using water or a fire extinguisher and telling them that they should leave the area immediately if they see unsupervised friends playing with fireworks.
If a firework-related injury does occur, seek medical attention immediately.
For more fireworks safety tips, visit www.cpsc.gov/fireworks or contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission Hotline at 800-638-2772.
Katie Nix can be reached at 330-996-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.