Fireworks Safety

Fireworks are part of many Fourth of July celebrations. But even the seemingly harmless ones -- like sparklers -- can be dangerous, especially to kids. Here's what you need to know to keep your family safe.

June 30, 2004 -- Many families across the United States will head to a beach, lake, park, or school to see a fireworks show this Fourth of July weekend. But some will light their own at home, which can cause serious injuries.

In 2002, there were 8,800 people treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children 14 years and younger sustained about 50 percent of the injuries, and males accounted for about 75 percent of all injuries.

Over half the injuries were from burns, and most involved the hands, fingers, eyes, head, and face, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported. Injuries were commonly associated with sparklers, fire-crackers, and rockets.

Although legal consumer fireworks that comply with the CPSC regulations can be relatively safe, all fireworks are hazardous and can cause injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports sparklers, for example, can burn up to more that 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Every type of consumer firework has been associated with serious injury or death," says AAP President Louis Z. Cooper, MD. "Too many children have become victims of these preventable injuries. We encourage parents and children who want to enjoy fireworks to do so at public displays, conducted by professionals."

Roughly two-thirds of injuries from fireworks in the U.S. occur in the days surrounding the July Fourth holiday. So what can you do to protect yourself and your family? The CPSC has these recommendations:

  • Do not allow young children to play with fireworks under any circumstances, even with adult supervision. Sparklers, considered by many the ideal "safe" firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of emergency.
  • Older children should only be permitted to use fireworks under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay.
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Light fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and flammable materials. Be sure other people are out of range.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that don't go off.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never ignite fireworks in a container, whether glass, metal, or other.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
  • Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Parents should supervise the ordering and use of mailorder "make your own" firework kits.

Beyond these tips, the CPSC advises you make sure fireworks are permitted in your state or local area before using them. Many states and local governments prohibit or limit consumer fireworks, including but not limited to Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

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