No one is surprised to hear about an injury from a firework, but everyone is surprised if they get injured by one. In fact, thousands of people are injured every year by sparklers and firecrackers, which many people would consider nearly harmless.
According to the most recent Fireworks Annual Report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 8,700 firework-related emergency room visits in the one-month period surrounding July 4, 2017. There were at least eight fireworks-related deaths that year, including one fatality caused by sparklers. Children aged 10-14 years were most likely to go to the emergency room from firework injuries; the second most likely group was adults between 20-24 years old.
These injuries are typically burns to the hands or fingers, but burns and impact injuries to the head, neck and eye area are also common. As the American Academy of Ophthalmology points out, 14% of fireworks injuries affect the eye area, which can cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions, retinal detachment and even permanent eye damage and vision loss.
Who wants to leave the party to spend the night in the emergency room? Think twice before allowing anyone in your household to light up the night.
Fireworks cause significant property loss and damage. Every year, fireworks cause approximately 18,500 fires. More fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year, so let’s try and break that tradition.
Even sparklers burn at a temperature of around 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. Due to the heat and explosive nature of fireworks, plus the crowded, BBQ-like atmosphere of most backyard 4th of July celebrations, it’s extremely difficult to find a completely risk-free area to shoot them off.
Consumer fireworks are banned in some states. Others allow for “safe and sane” novelties like sparklers or noisemakers. But even if you can buy fireworks in your state, the laws could be more complicated than you think. Consumer fireworks have multiple designations, permit requirements and permissible use cases which vary by state. Your city or community may assign stricter rules on top of these. The only way to be sure is to check the laws in your area.
Modern fireworks are usually made out of charcoal, sulfur fuel (the two ingredients that actually blow up) and potassium nitrate or perchlorates (chemicals that speed up the explosion). Perchlorates are problematic because high doses have been shown to negatively affect the human thyroid gland, leading to a wide range of disorders.
Fireworks fans might point out that perchlorates in fireworks should theoretically incinerate in the sky before ever making it back to the ground. However, studies have shown that not all perchlorate is combusted in fireworks, so it can and does end up in the environment. Studies in Oklahoma and Massachusetts confirmed elevated perchlorate levels spiking to dangerous levels in areas after fireworks shows, but more research is needed to determine the complete human health impact.
Nevertheless, individuals with asthma or chemical insensitives may experience negative effects from firework materials regardless of any specific chemical toxicity. The shrapnel from explosions is a lung irritant that leaves behind debris on the ground and in the water. In general, the more colorful and elaborate the show, the more debris it will produce. When it comes to pollution, less is always better.
Most people know to expect the sound of fireworks one day a year. But for households with babies, toddlers or pets, this is no easy task. When you’re blasting off bottle rockets on your own schedule, kids and furkids are frightened, anxious and sleepless. You might be depriving a baby (and their parents) an entire night of sleep while all the neighborhood dogs cry and cower. Consider the golden rule before subjecting your community to an unscheduled fireworks display.
If you’re looking for fireworks safety tips from the CPSC, NFPA, the American Red Cross, or the National Safety Council (NSC) the first thing you’ll find is the overwhelming recommendation not to use fireworks at home. Enjoy a professional display instead – they employ complete safety protocols and commercial-grade pyrotechnics for a superior show.
If you can’t resist the siren song of a few good celebratory blasts, abide by the following tips: