Updated June 30, 2018
Who doesn’t enjoy fireworks on the Fourth of July? They light up in bursts of color, celebrating independence.
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Of course, it’s important to celebrate safely. A new study from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) finds an alarming increase in fireworks-related deaths and injuries. In 2017, there were 12,900 fireworks-related injuries and eight deaths – with sparklers accounting for 14 percent of the estimated injuries.
Researchers found that people got hurt playing with lit fireworks or because they ignited fireworks while holding them.
They also experienced injuries when devices malfunctioned or did not work as expected, which includes errant flight paths, devices that tipped over and blowouts.
Don’t give sparklers or bottle rockets to young kids
Many Independence Day injuries also happen because young children handle fireworks that people think are less powerful, such as sparklers and bottle rockets.
Parents may not realize that sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees ─ hot enough to melt some metals. In 2017, sparklers and bottle rockets caused an estimated 1,500 injuries, according to CPSC.
Those who were hurt most often were children ages 10-14. So if you are going to put on a home fireworks display, it’s best to keep the kids away.
Only use legal, home-use fireworks
Fireworks incidents become deadly when banned, professional and home-manufactured devices are involved. In every death recorded last year, the victim was manipulating (or was a bystander to someone who was handling) a banned, professional or home-manufactured device.
How can you tell if the fireworks are legal or for home use? Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that they were made for professional displays and could pose a danger.
How to avoid most common injuries
Tom Waters, MD, an emergency room physician in Cleveland Clinic’s Emergency Department, says most fireworks-related injuries he sees involve extremities.
“Things we typically see in the emergency department involve fingers, injuries to fingers, the hands, also the eyes,” he says.
Here are tips to avoid common injuries:
- Never lean over lit fireworks when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance right after lighting them.
- If you find unexploded fireworks, leave them be. Never try to relight or handle them. Soak them with water and throw them away.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks are done burning, douse with plenty of water before throwing them away to prevent a trash fire.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks
- Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens using fireworks.
- Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
- Only use fireworks outdoors.
What to do if someone does get hurt
Dr. Waters says if someone is hurt lighting fireworks, you can start first aid before getting to the ER.
“If it’s a burn injury, you want to cool the burn right away and get a clean, dry dressing on it. If it’s an injury from something exploding, you want to hold pressure on it to control the bleeding and get to the emergency department as fast as possible,” Dr. Waters says.
Taking precautions will help you enjoy this summer holiday while staying safe.