Submitted by Pat G., Trauma Outreach and Prevention Coordinator, Hamot Shock Trauma

Can fireworks be dangerous?
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), four people died in 2004 and 9,600 injuries required medical treatment due to firework related injuries. About 12% of the 9,600 people had to be admitted to the hospital. Between the years of 1991-1996, the estimated injuries did not go under 10,900 per year and rose as high as 12,500.

When do they occur?
The most common time for fireworks related injuries is around the holidays. The Fourth of July and New Years lend themselves to fireworks displays and therefore are the top holidays for this type of injury. June and July are the months that most of the injuries occur.

Who is the most likely to be injured?
Anyone can be injured and the reported injuries cross all age groups. However, about half of those injured are children. According to the CPSC “children ages ten to fourteen have the highest injury rate for fireworks-related injuries.” Injuries to males are far more likely than females. Not surprising is the fact that those who handle fireworks have more severe injuries than bystanders.

Where does this happen most frequently?
Most injuries occur on private property.

Where do the injuries occur?
Hand and finger injuries are the most common, followed by injuries to the eye. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about one third of the eye injuries result in permanent eye damage and one fourth have permanent vision loss or blindness. Head and face follow next with the body and legs as the smallest percentage.

What types of fireworks cause injuries?
Firecrackers lead the way, followed closely by rockets. Sparklers, Fountains, Reloadable Aerial Shells, Roman Candles, and Helicopters are next and lastly are the homemade brands.

What injuries are common to what kind of fireworks?
Burns are the most common injury to all body parts except eyes. Lacerations, contusions, and foreign bodies are more common. Bruises, cuts, broken bones and sprains are additional types of injuries that have occurred with fireworks. Hand and finger injuries usually occur by handling firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers. In the age group of five years old and less, sparklers are the most common source of injury as they can reach temperatures of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit (NFPA 6/2006). Head and face injuries are more commonly caused by burns and due to putting one’s face too close to the firework’s device.

What other problems are associated with fireworks?
Property damage is in the millions of dollars from fireworks. This is often associated with unsupervised young people playing with fireworks. As an example, in 2003 there were over 2,300 structure and vehicle fires ignited by fireworks that cost $58 million dollars in direct property damage (NFPA 6/2006).

Are there any unsafe fireworks?
Absolutely! All recalled fireworks should not be used…EVER. The “T6” Titanium 6 Break Artillery Shell Fireworks had been recalled due to a defective fuse. DO NOT USE THE “T6”. Added to the list are the following: M-80, M-100, BLOCKBUSTER, OR QUARTERPOUNDER. They are all considered illegal and can cause injury or death. DO NOT USE THESE FIREWORKS!

Here are some safety tips.

  • The best tip is to leave fireworks to the trained professional. If you are still determined to use fireworks, knowing the considerable dangers involved, here are some additional safety tips from the CPSC:
  • Do not relight any fuse if it does not ignite on the first attempt.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in the area before buying or using.
  • Adults should always supervise.
  • Never try to pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Never allow young children near any fireworks.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.

Additional tips:

  • Be sure you are igniting fireworks on a smooth, flat surface, free from flammable items and away from the house and people traffic.
  • Do not give sparklers to children. (They burn at over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause severe burns.)
  • Standing about 500 feet away from a fireworks display is usually a safe distance.
  • Always wear some kind of foot wear in order to prevent burns on the feet. This is especially true at night.
  • Never use any fireworks that are not sold by a reputable dealer.
  • Always read and follow the directions on the label.
  • Never make your own fireworks and watch for teens experimenting with homemade fireworks.
  • Use fireworks outdoors only.
  • Eye protection should be worn by the person shooting off the fireworks.
  • Do not have any part of the body over the fireworks.
  • Soak all fireworks in water before disposing of them.