The facts on firework injuries

First Posted: 6/26/2014

This column originally appeared in The Robesonian on July 3, 2011 — editor.

I was just 12 years old when my brother’s best friend came running into our house to tell us that my brother had “blew off his toe” with an M-80 firecracker. That night, and his months of rehabilitation that followed, are still vivid memories and the reason that, to this day, I don’t mess around with fireworks. My brother’s doctors were able to save his toe and reattach it, but he has no feeling in it, and it really just serves the purpose of helping with balance.

I’m not telling you this to bring you down or rain on your parade about the Fourth of July and fireworks, but just to make you aware of some things. As always, I find that the facts speak for themselves. In visiting the website, I found some pretty interesting information.

An estimated 7,000 people, the equivalent of more than 19 people every day for a year, were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered from fireworks from June 20 to July 20 in 2008, and more than half of those injured are children, mostly under the age of 15.

Some facts:

— People actively participating in fireworks and related activities are more frequently and severely injured than those just watching, and men are injured more often than women.

— The body parts most often injured were hands and fingers, eyes and legs.

— More than half of the injuries were burns and were the most common injury to all body parts except the eyes and head areas, where bruises, cuts and foreign bodies in the eye occurred more frequently.

— Fireworks can cause blindness, third-degree burns, and permanent scarring. They can also cause life-threatening home and motor vehicle fires.

And don’t think that a firework has to be big to cause damage. Almost as many injures are caused by sparklers and small firecrackers as larger firecrackers and rockets. A sparkler burns at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since 2000, more than one-third of the fireworks-related deaths involved professional devices that were illegally sold to consumers because, in spite of federal regulations and varying state prohibitions, many types of fireworks are still accessible to the public. As we can find just 20 miles down the road, distributors often sell fireworks near state borders, where laws prohibiting sales on either side of the border may differ.

Besides the type of firework you may use, others factors that cause injuries are:

— Proximity: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode.

— Lack of coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.

— Curiosity: Children are often excited around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured by handling unsafe items.

— Experimentation: Homemade fireworks can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.

— Intoxication: As you may guess, where there’s a July Fourth party and fireworks, you’ll also find alcohol.

Believe it or not, each year an estimated 22,500 fires are reported to be caused by fireworks, costing $42 million in direct property damage.

So when it comes to enjoying fireworks and preventing injuries, I believe it is always safest to leave fireworks to trained professionals.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.