Tips to enjoy fireworks safely this Fourth of July

Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those 15 years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. Credit: Getty
Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those 15 or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. Credit: Getty

Every July, fireworks crackle and sizzle in celebration of Independence Day. While most spinners and firecrackers successfully illuminate the night sky, thousands of misfires cause significant harm to revelers with little experience in pyrotechnics.

“Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident,” said Dr. Kenneth Cheng, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, of the more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, 30 percent of injuries involve the eyes and one-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in partial loss of vision or blindness. In the lead-up to the Fourth of July, the academy is urging people to let professionals handle the fireworks shows. With children by far the most common victims of firework accidents, the best ways to minimize potential injuries include establishing safety barriers, keeping a safe distance away from a lit firework and staying away from unexploded fireworks.

Each year, the $900 million fireworks industry sees approximately three and half injuries per 100 pounds of fireworks used. The device that causes the most injuries is also the loudest, with 32 percent of all fireworks injuries stemming from firecrackers. Though maybe the least exciting fireworks, hand-held sparklers are the most dangerous to young children, as they blaze at a temperature scalding enough to cause a third-degree burn.

“The best way to reduce injuries is to designate a shooter and use the fireworks as they are intended,” said Ralph Apel, spokesman for the National Council on Fireworks Safety.

“If consumers know their fireworks and use them responsibly, we should see a decrease in injuries.”

The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology’s safety tips:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
  • View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
  • Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
  • Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
  • Follow directions given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
  • If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.
  • Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000F, hot enough to cause a third-degree burn. They account for one-third of all fireworks injuries.

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