Fireworks Safety

Preventing Fireworks-Related Injuries

What is the safest way to prevent fireworks injuries?

    * The safest way to prevent fireworks-related injuries is to leave fireworks displays to trained professionals.

How extensive is the problem?

    * In 2005, four persons died and an estimated 10,800 were treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in the United States (Greene & Joholske 2006).
    * An estimated 5% of fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency departments required hospitalization (Greene & Joholske 2006).

Who is most likely to be injured?

    * About 60% of all fireworks-related injuries in 2005 occurred between June 18 and July 18. During that time period:
          o about 45% of persons injured from fireworks were children ages 14 years and younger;
          o males were injured by fireworks more than twice as often as females; and
          o children ages 10 to 14 years had the highest injury rate for fireworks-related injuries (Greene & Joholske 2006).
    * Persons who are actively participating in fireworks-related activities are more frequently injured, and sustain more severe injuries, than bystanders (Smith et al. 1996).

When do these injuries happen?

    * Injuries occur on and around holidays associated with fireworks celebrations, especially July 4th and New Year's Eve.

What kinds of injuries occur?

    * Between June 18 and July 18, 2005:
          o Fireworks-related injuries most frequently involved hands and fingers (31%), eyes (25%), and the head and face (20%) (Greene & Joholske 2006).
          o More than half of the injuries were burns. Burns were the most common injury to all body parts except the eyes. In the eyes, contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies occurred more frequently (Greene & Joholske 2006).
    * Fireworks can be associated with serious injuries such as blindness, third degree burns, and permanent scarring (Smith et al. 1996).
    * Fireworks also cause life-threatening residential and motor vehicle fires (Greene & Joholske 2006).

What types of fireworks are associated with the most injuries?

    * Between June 18 and July 18, 2005:
          o Firecrackers (26%), sparklers (17%), and rockets (17%) accounted for most of the injuries seen in emergency departments (Greene & Joholske 2006).
          o Sparklers were associated with more than half of the estimated injuries for children under five (Greene & Joholske 2006).
    * Between 2000-2005, more than one third of the fireworks-related deaths involved professional devices that were illegally sold to consumers (CPSC 2006a).

How and why do these injuries occur?

    * Availability: In spite of federal regulations and varying state prohibitions, many types of fireworks are often accessible by the public. It is not uncommon to find fireworks distributors near state borders, where residents of states with strict fireworks regulations can take advantage of more lenient state laws.
    * Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into one’s face and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite one’s clothing (sparklers burn at more than 1,000oF); and firecrackers can injure one’s hands or face if they explode at close range.
    * Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone bends over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
    * Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.
    * Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
    * Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous explosions (CDC 2004).

How much do these injuries cost each year?

    * An estimated 2,200 reported structure or vehicle fires were started by fireworks in 2004. These fires resulted in $21 million in direct property damage (Hall 2007).

What effect do laws have on fireworks injuries?

    * Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission prohibits the sale of the most dangerous types of fireworks and the components intended to make them. The banned fireworks include various large aerial devices, M-80s, quarter-sticks, half-sticks and other large firecrackers. Any firecracker with more than 50 milligrams of explosive powder and any aerial firework with more than 130 milligrams of flash powder is banned under federal law, as are mail order kits and components designed to build these fireworks (U.S. CPSC 2006b).

US Consumer Product Safety Commission Information on Fireworks safety

CPSC Warns Consumers that Using Professional Fireworks Often has Deadly Results

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Between 2000 and 2005, CPSC has reports of 36 fireworks-related consumer deaths, the CPSC announced today on the Washington Mall. More than a third of these incidents involved professional devices, which were sold illegally to consumers.

CPSC is aware of an incident involving professional fireworks last 4th of July in which a man was killed. He was lighting a 4-inch professional display mortar shell in a homemade mortar tube with a cigarette lighter. It launched almost immediately after being lit and struck the man in the face as he was hunched over the tube.

"Commercial fireworks are much more powerful and often ignite faster than you can imagine," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "They are illegal in the hands of consumers and should only be used by licensed professionals."

CPSC's staff estimates that there were 10,800 emergency room-treated injuries associated with all fireworks in 2005. Most of these injuries, 6,500, occurred between June 18 and July 18, 2005.

To reduce these injuries, CPSC encourages consumers who use fireworks to safely use legal consumer fireworks. The federal government also is committed to stopping the manufacture and sale of illegal fireworks, which can be deadly if used by consumers. CPSC is working to do its part to keep American families safe by enforcing fireworks regulations and by prosecuting dealers and distributors who manufacture and sell illegal explosives.

As a part of its fireworks enforcement program, CPSC actively works with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Through undercover buys, online purchases, inspections and investigations, CPSC and ATF are tracking down and closing illegal roadside stands, warehouses and retail stores that sell professional grade explosives to consumers, and homes that serve as havens for the manufacture of dangerous fireworks devices. CPSC also works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the Department of Homeland Security to prevent millions of hazardous and illegal fireworks from entering U.S. ports and reaching consumers. For example, since 1988, CPSC and CBP have seized or detained nearly 460 million hazardous fireworks at docks across the country. The investigative work conducted by CPSC and ATF has led to dozens of successful prosecutions by the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation and U.S. Attorney's offices across the country.

CPSC recommends following these fireworks safety tips:
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown, paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the fireworks were made for the professional shows and could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don't realize that there are more injuries from sparklers to children under five than from any other type of fireworks. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back a safe distance immediately after lighting.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden 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 off in metal or glass containers.

This site contains informations produced by the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the site owners. Layout and site design Copyright 2007