Americans love their fireworks. Sales of legal consumer fireworks stood at $649 million in 2011, up from just $407 million in 2000. Sales have grown as more states rescind or reduce their restrictions on fireworks sales. Only four states completely prohibited sales of consumer fireworks in 2011, compared to 11 such states in 2000.
Everyone realizes that injuries from the use of consumer fireworks are common and can be severe. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) conducted a study of fireworks injuries between June 17 and July 17 in 2011. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that most injuries happen on and around Independence Day. In fact, 65% of all fireworks injuries for the entire year occurred during that 30 day period. Hands and fingers were the most frequently injured body parts by far, accounting for 46% of all injuries. The eyes (17%) and the head, face and ears (17%) were also heavily impacted.
Over half of all injuries were burns and sparklers, which can burn at up to 2000 degrees Farenheit, caused the highest percentage of injuries by type of firework (17%). Firecrackers were the second most frequent type, causing 13% of all injuries. Interestingly, all four of the deaths during the study period could be linked to illegal or homemade fireworks.
Many governmental and industry groups offer tips for safety around fireworks. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) flatly recommends that individuals attend public fireworks displays as an alternative to using consumer fireworks. The CPSC study supports this stance, as just 3% of fireworks related injuries occurred at public displays.
The CPSC and the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) agree on certain safety tips for users of consumer fireworks. These include the following:
- Always provide adult supervision.
- Do not allow children to play with or light fireworks, including sparklers.
- Do not attempt to re-ignite a firework that did not light properly.
- Light only one firework at a time.
- Keep a water bucket or garden hose nearby.
If you enjoy a “hands-on” approach to fireworks, please use them with extreme caution. However, I recommend viewing them from the comfort of a lawn chair, several hundred feet from a launching area operated by a trained professional. There are hundreds of great fireworks displays across the country on and around Independence Day to choose from. Which display is your favorite?