Augusta, Ga. -- For most of us, fireworks are a fun way to celebrate the Fourth of July. But every year, thousands of children and adults head to the emergency room with injuries, most of them burns, usually to the hands, eyes, head and face.
For safety's sake, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adults avoid lighting fireworks at home and instead attend public fireworks displays to celebrate the Fourth. However, if you choose to use fireworks, it's important that you know the risks and the precautions to take to help keep you safe.
Know the Risks
- Fireworks are explosives, not a toy.
- Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime.
- Fireworks that are often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, can reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and can burn users and bystanders.
- In 2002, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission examined fireworks-related injuries around the Fourth of July, and found that an estimated 5,700 people were treated in ERs from June 21 to July 21. Half were children younger than 15. A total of 8,800 were treated in that year.
- According to the USCPSC, sparklers cause the greatest number of injuries, with children ages 5 to 14 being injured by sparklers more than any other type of fireworks.
- In 1997, according to the AAP, fireworks set off 20,100 fires, causing $22.7 million dollars in property damage. Fireworks cause more fires on the Fourth of July than all other causes of fire combined.
- Of all fireworks injuries, 40 percent involve the hands, 20 percent involve the eyes and 20 percent involve the face and head, says the AAP. One-third of all eye injuries result in permanent blindness.
- Always read and follow label directions.
- Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket).
- Adults should supervise the lighting of all fireworks. Children should not play with or ignite fireworks.
- Buy from reliable sellers and stay away from illegal explosives. Never make your own fireworks.
- Use outdoors only, on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, leaves or other flammable materials.
- Light only one firework at a time. The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework. After lighting, get out of range and stay alert.
- Never re-light a "dud" firework. Wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water and dispose of it.
- If necessary, store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
- Avoid shooting off fireworks in a large crowd, and make sure others are out of range. Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
- Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
- When attending public displays, stay behind the safety barriers. The best view of fireworks is actually about a quarter of a mile or more from the firing site.
- Pets have very sensitive ears, and the booms and bangs associated with a fireworks display can be quite uncomfortable and painful-particularly to dogs-so leave pets at home.
Remember, fireworks are not a toy and can cause serious injury and property damage. Public fireworks displays managed by professionals are a wonderful choice to celebrate this holiday. But if you must use them at home, be aware of the risks and take care to keep your family and friends safe this Fourth of July.