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Fireworks Safety

Child Safety Basics

By

Updated July 04, 2011

A public fireworks display on the 4th of July, a safer option than playing with fireworks at home.

A public fireworks display on the Fourth of July.

Artifacts Images / Getty Images
Fireworks are a summer tradition for many families.

Unfortunately, injuries from fireworks are another tradition that often seems to follow when kids are allowed to play with fireworks.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that:

  • there were 2 fireworks-related deaths in 2009, which was down from the 7 in 2008 and 11 in 2007
  • about 8,600 people were treated in emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks in 2010
  • most injuries from fireworks occur in the few weeks around July 4th, including about 6,300 injuries last year in the 30 days surrounding July 4, which sent about 1,800 people to emergency rooms
  • almost half of the injuries were to children under age 15
  • firecrackers caused the most injuries, followed by bottle rockets and sparklers
  • burns are the most common injuries from fireworks
In addition to the direct safety hazard that fireworks can have, in 2009, fireworks caused about 18,000 fires, including 1,300 structure fires, that resulted in 30 injuries and $38 million in damages.

Are Sparklers Safe?

Parents who understand that firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles, etc. can cause injuries, often let their younger kids play with sparklers because they think they are safe.

Sparklers, which can reach about 2000°F, cause half of the injuries to children under age five though, and 10 percent of fireworks-related injuries overall.

So even sparklers should be avoided.

Fireworks Injuries

Many parents feel that playing fireworks is a rite of passage for kids, that they will supervise their children, and they can play with fireworks safely. If you review some of these real life reports of injuries from the CPSC you will see how, like other accidents, injuries from fireworks can't always be avoided unless you simply avoid playing with fireworks:
  • A 5-month-old male was struck in the forehead by an aerial shell that was launched sideways.
  • The brother of an 11-year-old male victim lit a fountain firework that ignited other fountain fireworks. One went into the victim's tennis shoe resulting in burns to his foot.
  • A 12-year-old male victim struck in the eye by a rocket that had been launched by one of his friends, resulting in eye surgery.
  • A 4-year-old female was hit in the face by an aerial shell that tipped over and traveled horizontally instead of going into the air, seriously burning her face.
  • A 4-year-old male victim's father was lighting multiple aerial shell type devices. When one tipped over, it broke into pieces and then exploded. One piece hit the victim on his thigh, resulting in first degree burns.
  • A 14-year-old male victim was holding a bottle rocket in each hand. When he lit the rocket in his right hand, the other rocket also ignited, giving him third degree burns on his hand.
  • An 8-year-old male picked up a ground popper that had been thrown on the ground. It then exploded, lodging particles in his eye.
  • A 12-year-old male found a fountain type fireworks in the woods. He lit it and it exploded, immediately causing first degree burns to his face.
  • A 5-year-old male was injured while watching fireworks launched by his neighbor. Some debris from the fireworks got in his eye.
  • When people were lighting fountain type fireworks, a spark flew about 25 yards into another box of fireworks. The box exploded, showering sparks on the 5-year-old male victim and causing burns to his arm and chest.
  • When somebody threw a ground popper on a sawdust-covered floor, the explosion threw up some sawdust which got into the 7-year-old female victim's eye.
  • A 6-year-old male victim was trying to break open a firecracker. The device exploded when he hit it with a rock, resulting in burns to both arms.
  • A 12-year-old male victim and a friend unwrapped an aerial shell type firework. They emptied the powder on the ground. Then they lit the powder, which flashed and burned the victim's face.
  • An 11-year-old victim and his friends put drain cleaner in a plastic bottle, then put a small firecracker on top of the bottle. The victim then lit the firecracker, which exploded, burning his fingers.

Fireworks Safety Tips

Although the CPSC offers some fireworks safety tips to 'help consumers use fireworks more safely,' such as providing adult supervision, keeping a bucket of water nearby, and observing local laws, etc., the American Academy of Pediatrics offers much better advice, that:
children and their families should be counseled to attend public fireworks displays rather than purchase fireworks for home use.
So this year, skip buying fireworks that you would plan to use at home, and the biggest risk for injuries from fireworks, and instead, take your family to see a public fireworks show.



Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Fireworks-Related Injuries to Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 108 No. 1 July 2001, pp. 190-191.

Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2005 Fireworks Annual Report. Fireworks Related Deaths, Emergency Department Treated Injuries, and Enforcement Activities During 2005.

CPSC. Celebrating July 4th Safely: Fireworks Big and Small Can Pose Risks, CPSC Urges Caution with Every Use. June 22, 2011

National Fire Protection Association. Fireworks report. June 2011.

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