Top 10 dangers during the Fourth of July weekend

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Millions of Americans will gather on the Fourth of July to celebrate the nation’s birthday. They’ll light sparklers, watch fireworks and cook on the grill. All these things make Independence Day fun to celebrate, but accidents and injuries are always associated with the holiday weekend.

Dr. Galinos Barmparas, medical director of trauma at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told ConsumerAffairs he typically sees an uptick in patients with injuries over the July Fourth weekend.

“The combination of unsafe practices and high-risk material, such as fireworks, on top of consuming alcohol or using other drugs, all increase substantially the likelihood of an injury,” Barmparas stated. “Injuries may be minor, such as small cuts from sharp knives during food preparation or limited first-degree burns from sparklers. However, they can also be life-threatening or lead to permanent disability.”

Barmparas says heat stroke, drowning, motor vehicle trauma and face and body trauma from improper use of fireworks are the most common ailments and injuries he has seen over the July Fourth weekend. Others involve poor decisions made after drinking alcohol or using drugs.

“We also see a lot of tragic injuries from patients who think that riding an electric scooter is safer than driving their car or motorcycle home after drinking,” Barmparas said. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a patient present with a traumatic brain injury or major bodily trauma after falling from one of these scooters.”

It’s not surprising that many fireworks injuries occur around the July Fourth weekend. They are, after all, a staple of July Fourth cookouts and gatherings. But some other things that sent people to the hospital last year might surprise you.

Dr. Sanjit Konda, an associate professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine department of orthopedic surgery and a specialist in orthopedic trauma surgery at NYU Langone Health, said he has seen plenty of traumatic blast injuries and burns related to fireworks, as well as an increase in motor vehicle accidents and scooter accidents involving alcohol.

“These result in peripheral extremity injuries such as fractures,” Konda said. “I also see an uptick in gun-related violence on July Fourth. All of these accidents are weather-related as well. If the weather is nice and sunny, then people are more apt to be outside, making it more likely to be involved in accidents of this nature.”

To help you avoid your own hospital visit this year, ConsumerAffairs ranked the top 10 product-related dangers associated with the Fourth of July weekend. We analyzed 2023 data on product-related injuries resulting in hospital visits from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to produce the rankings. Rankings were determined by how many injuries resulted in hospital visits over the July Fourth weekend in 2023 compared with other weekends in the spring and summer of 2023.


Key insights

  • Fireworks caused the most product-related injuries during the Fourth of July weekend in 2023. There was a 2,286% increase in fireworks-related injuries compared with an average weekend in the spring or summer of that same year.
  • Various types of watersports and activities were major causes of hospital visits. Water tubing made our top 10 list, with four times as many injuries reported on the July Fourth weekend compared with an average weekend.
  • Party setup can lead to the need for unplanned medical treatment. Power tool usage, home decor and household cleaners were all products linked to emergency room visits over the 2023 holiday weekend.
  • Ice skating injuries more than tripled around the July Fourth weekend, shuffleboard injuries increased by 877% from nonholiday weekends, and billiards injuries jumped 248%.

Top 10 Fourth of July weekend dangers

Our findings suggest Americans should enjoy the holiday responsibly to avoid a hospital trip. Here are the top 10 product-related dangers during the July Fourth weekend, ranked by increase in hospital visits compared with normal spring and summer weekends, according to our data.

1. Fireworks
Fireworks are beautiful to watch but can be deadly. They were the number one product-related danger during the Fourth of July weekend in 2023. There was a significant hospital visit increase (2,286%) from fireworks during the holiday weekend compared with the average spring or summer weekend. That might not be surprising since pyrotechnics are the centerpiece of most Fourth of July celebrations.

The data ConsumerAffairs analyzed showed examples of people suffering from severe burns, facial lacerations, trauma and other serious injuries. One man, 21, suffered burns to his face and neck after a rocket exploded, a 41-year-old woman suffered burns to her hand after a sparkler exploded, and an 8-year-old boy suffered scattered abrasions and an eye injury after he walked up to a firework that didn’t go off near a firework stand. The pyrotechnic exploded when he got near it, causing his injuries. The CPSC reports that there were 11 fireworks-related deaths in 2022.

2. Shuffleboard
When you think about the Fourth of July, shuffleboard injuries probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, shuffleboard injuries increased by 877% over the holiday weekend in 2023 compared with a normal spring or summer weekend that year. The extent of people’s injuries varied. An 84-year-old wound up at the hospital after experiencing chest pain playing the game outside in the heat. CPSC data shows that 74 people suffered serious injuries related to the activity.

3. Solid room deodorizers
Nothing is more inviting than a squeaky-clean home that smells nice. But people should consider what they use to envelop their homes in sweet-smelling fragrances. Solid room deodorizers can be particularly dangerous. These products landed third on our list, with a 364% increase in related injuries on the Fourth of July compared with an average weekend.

CPSC data shows that one 25-year-old woman went to the hospital after cutting her right hand while trying to clean a wax melt warmer with a knife. Room fragrance devices should always be handled carefully, especially around kids. Last year, a 6-year-old boy went to the hospital after a soft air freshener bead wound up inside his ear.

Many people use room deodorizers in aerosol cans to keep their homes smelling fresh and clean. Although the ingredients inside the containers weren’t specified in the NEISS data, aerosol containers were responsible for an estimated 111 serious injuries resulting in hospitalization, a hospital transfer or death during last year’s Fourth of July weekend.

4. Drapery or curtain rods
Before you consider freshening up your home with new curtains for your upcoming Fourth of July party, remember to take extra precautions. Everyday household chores, such as hanging drapery or curtain rods, cause unforeseen injuries more often than you think.

Last year, an estimated 54 people were hospitalized due to injuries related to hanging drapery or curtain rods during the July Fourth weekend, which was 363% higher than usual. Barmparas told ConsumerAffairs that accidents caused by household items aren’t surprising to him at all.

“They are one of the most common causes of injuries we see. A very high proportion of my patients get injured at their own home, doing routine things, such as cooking, hanging lights on the roof or even taking a shower,” he said. “You must always stay vigilant and be proactive, no matter what you do, no matter how familiar or routine the task is for you. This is especially true for elderly patients who may have imbalance issues or have a slower reaction to a potential risk.”

5. Pressure cookers or canners
You can’t celebrate America’s birthday without a large spread of food. Many people will use an outdoor grill to barbecue shish kebabs, hamburgers and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. But surprisingly, grills weren’t the most dangerous item used to prepare food on the July Fourth weekend in 2023 — pressure cookers and canners were.

Pressure cookers and canners were the most dangerous kitchenware items used during last year’s July Fourth weekend. They sent an estimated 149 people to the hospital, more than four times higher than on an average weekend. Pressure cookers can be especially dangerous due to the risk of severe burns. A study published in 2024 found that many injuries occur from premature lid opening.

“Despite the widespread use of pressure cookers for quick and efficient cooking, literature has insufficiently highlighted the potential dangers resulting from inappropriate handling,” the authors wrote.

6. Personal protection devices
Many people are concerned about personal safety, leading to the purchase and possession of devices like pepper spray and firearms. According to estimates, accidents with these devices sent an estimated 228 people to the hospital during last year’s holiday. There was a notable increase in injuries (340%) from these devices during the 2023 holiday weekend compared with an average spring or summer weekend.

One of the injuries happened when a 4-year-old found a pepper spray canister in the backseat of a car. The child sprayed themselves in the face, resulting in chemical burns to the eyes, according to NEISS data. Another boy, 13, went to the hospital for chemical exposure to his eyes after he was sprayed with bear spray. One 46-year-old man suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand after he accidentally shot himself.

7. Water tubing
The Fourth of July wouldn’t be the same without fun in the sun — or on the water. People of all ages enjoy swimming, boating and water tubing on Independence Day. But these wet and wild festivities can result in unplanned injuries that can quickly ruin your holiday.

Last year, injuries due to water sports, particularly water tubing, occurred four times more often than average during the July Fourth weekend. According to NEISS data, a 28-year-old woman suffered a traumatic membrane perforation resulting in hearing loss after water was forced into her ear when she fell off a tube in a lake. Another 22-year-old male dislocated his shoulder, and a 19-year-old male suffered a perforated eardrum after he hit the right side of his head when he was thrown from a tube.

Adults weren’t the only ones hurt in the water. A 10-year-old boy suffered cervical muscle spasms after he tweaked his neck while water tubing, a 16-year-old boy was kneed in the left eye and got a concussion, and a 13-year-old female experienced a potentially life-threatening condition called hemomediastinum after she collided with someone else on a water tube.

8.  Billiards or pool
Family gatherings and parties tend to move indoors as the day dwindles, especially when people want to beat the Fourth of July heat. However, some well-loved indoor activities can still be dangerous. The eighth most common injury on our list is related to billiards. There were 248% more billiards-related injuries during the July Fourth weekend in 2023 than during the average spring or summer weekend in the same year.

Pool players often suffer back injuries, sprains or herniated discs due to all the bending involved in the game. People who enjoy billiards may also experience injuries to their hand tendons, ligaments and nerves, as they are used repetitively during the game.

9. Ice skating equipment
Ice skating isn’t just an event happening at Rockefeller Center every winter; it's also a highly popular summer pastime. Vacation hot spots like the Poconos in Pennsylvania offer ice skating year-round, and many families enjoy it on America’s birthday. But this fun can come at a cost. Last year, there was a 222% increase in injuries around July Fourth compared with an average spring or summer weekend. According to NEISS data, many of the injuries were due to falls.

You should always be safe on the ice, as ice skating injuries aren’t uncommon. Between 2002 and 2021, over 400,000 injuries were linked to the activity, according to a study published in 2023. Kristen Eirvin, the figure skating director at Sherwood Ice Arena in Sherwood, Oregon, said she sees injuries to the wrist, ankle and head quite often.

“In our learn to skate classes, we always teach how to fall and get up properly and safety tips,” she said. “Go slow and take your time. Put your hands on your knees to check your balance. We do recommend wearing helmets if you haven’t ice skated before to protect yourself. Everybody that’s new should be wearing a helmet.”

10. Portable tools
Hosting a Fourth of July party means getting your home ready for guests, and part of that party preparation often requires power tools. You might not think too much about the dangers of using a table saw or drill, but these items can result in an unplanned trip to the emergency room.

Accidents related to power tools, drills and accessories came in 10th on our list. There was a 203% surge in power tool-related injuries during the 2023 July Fourth weekend compared with the average spring or summer weekend. They were estimated to be responsible for 135 hospital visits.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers plenty of tips on tool safety and hazard prevention to help prevent these injuries. The agency recommends wearing eye or face protection, turning off tools when not in use, avoiding using tools in an explosive or flammable atmosphere and never carrying a tool by the cord.

Fireworks are more dangerous than people realize

As our list shows, fireworks-related injuries were a leading cause of hospital visits in the U.S. over the Fourth of July weekend in 2023. According to the CPSC, these festive but dangerous explosives caused over 10,000 injuries and 11 deaths in 2022. Some of the specific incidents ConsumerAffairs discovered from examining CPSC data were tragic.

On July 4, 2023, a 12-year-old girl was hit in the back of the neck and shoulder by a Roman candle and experienced first- and second-degree burns. On the same day, an 8-year-old girl experienced a thermal burn injury to her left eye after playing with a small flying spinner firework, and a 45-year-old woman had multiple fingers amputated on both hands after a large firework she was holding exploded. These are just three of the more than 1,000 fireworks-related accidents last year.

“Fireworks injuries can run the gamut from minor to life-threatening,” Barmparas said. “Injuries that we see that are specifically caused by fireworks include finger or hand amputations, large soft tissue injuries, eye injuries, facial burns and even genital injuries from fireworks that unexpectedly explode in the patient’s pocket.”

Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said there is a pronounced danger of fireworks-related injuries, including severe burns and injuries to the eyes, head, face and hands, over the holiday weekend. New York City had an estimated 36 fireworks-related emergency room visits in 2023. That’s slightly higher than its annual average of 33 between 2017 and 2022, per the commissioner.

“Consumer fireworks are illegal in New York City. But wherever you live, they are dangerous,” Vasan said. “In New York City, we have one of the most spectacular July Fourth fireworks displays in the world. Many towns and cities also put on a terrific show,” he said. “The technical experts who organize these events know what they’re doing, so leave it to them.”

Use caution when celebrating the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is synonymous with festivities and fun, but some products and activities increase the risk of injuries and hospitalizations. Some activities not mentioned in our top 10 list include popular pastimes like swimming and mountain biking, which caused 965 and 246 hospital visits over the Fourth of July weekend last year, respectively.

Dr. JJ Hoff, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Duke University, told ConsumerAffairs parents should monitor their children closely around fireworks and sparklers. “Anytime you have an incendiary object that you’re holding in your hand, those sparks can pop off and ignite clothing and household objects and lead to burn injuries. About 28% of firework injuries happen to children 14 and under. Children should never be anywhere near a firework being detonated,” he said.

Barmparas echoed these sentiments, adding that fireworks are very dangerous and should only be used under the right conditions.

“Fireworks are not toys. They can be very dangerous when not used correctly. Always do it outdoors in a very open area, and far away from anything flammable,” he said.

Barmparas also notes that consumers should keep sparklers away from their bodies and never use them in a crowd. Keeping fireworks in your pocket can also be dangerous because the friction from rubbing fabric could cause them to detonate. Finally, he says consumers should ensure they dispose of fireworks properly after enjoying them.

The Department of Homeland Security has published additional tips on firework safety that consumers can read about here.

Methodology

ConsumerAffairs analyzed 2023 data on product- and activity-related injuries resulting in hospital visits in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The dataset includes a sample of all U.S. hospital data, and each record was assigned a corresponding weight to calculate national estimates of injuries.

ConsumerAffairs ranked the products and activities based on the percentage increase in hospital visits over the July Fourth weekend in 2023 compared with other weekends in the spring and summer of 2023. Products appearing in the data didn’t necessarily cause the injuries listed but were involved in the incidents in some way.


Article sources

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:

  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).” Accessed May 28, 2024.Link Here
  2. National Library of Medicine, “Risk of burns in pressure cooker usage: a comprehensive analysis of explosive injuries.” Accessed May 4, 2024.Link Here
  3. National Library of Medicine, Orthopaedic Injury Patterns Related to Ice Skating, Inline Skating, and Roller Skating: A 20-Year Epidemiologic Analysis.” Accessed May 6, 2024.Link Here
  4. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Have a Blast, Just Do It Safely this Fourth of July; CPSC Report Shows Trips to the Emergency Room Remain High.” Accessed May 5, 2024.Link Here
  5. U.S. Department of Labor, “Hand and Power Tools.” Accessed May 8, 2024.Link Here

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