While Americans' plans for celebrating the nation's 237th birthday on July 4th are many and varied, blowing off a finger or hand probably is not at the top of the list. And yet it continues to happen as sure as the rising of the sun in the East.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says an estimated 8,700 consumers were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries last year.
Between June 22, 2012, and July 22, 2012, more than 5,000 consumers were treated in hospital emergency rooms due to fireworks-related injuries. In fact, 60% of all fireworks injuries occur during the 30 days surrounding the July 4 holiday.
More than half of these reported injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children.
Follow-up investigations of incidents showed that most injuries were associated with malfunctioning fireworks or improper use. Malfunctioning fireworks often resulted in unexpected flight paths and dangerous debris. Improper use included igniting fireworks too close to someone, lighting fireworks in one's hand and playing with lit or used fireworks.
Most victims recovered from their injuries or were expected to recover completely; however, several victims reported that their injuries might be long term.
What to do
Consumers who decide to buy legal fireworks should take these safety steps.
- Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers 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 because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and 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 try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
- 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 the device to prevent a trash fire.
Consumers are urged to report the manufacture or sale of illegal fireworks to their local law enforcement agencies or to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fireworks, and Explosives hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).