As 4th of July Draws Near, Nation’s Safety Experts Warn About Firework Risks

It’s a glorious, quintessential American tradition: watching fireworks burst overhead on America’s Day of Independence, July 4th. Gazing in awe at colorful displays electrifying the evening sky is a wonderful, communal experience.

However, there is a “dark side” to the fireworks drama. Every year, nearly ten thousand Americans injure themselves over the holiday, the vast majority children ages 10-14 because they don’t know or fail to abide by proper safety precautions. Any use of fireworks may result in a criminal charge, but improper use of fireworks, even where lawful, can also kill or maim.

Fireworks Laws

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), together with the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), the National Council on Firework and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, want to spread the word about firework use before Independence Day. Federal law bans the consumer use of fireworks with more than 50 milligrams of explosive material, such as M80s, Cherry Bombs and Silver Salutes. The Federal Hazardous Substance Act characterizes the black gunpowder common to most fireworks as a hazardous substance that is subject to regulation.

Fireworks Statistics

According to the National Safety Council, in 2006, 9,200 people went to the ER for serious firework injuries. More than a third of those injured were younger than 15. Children — ages 10 to 14 — were at triple the risk for getting seriously hurt. Smaller fireworks, such as sparklers and bottle rockets, cause more injuries than do the “bigger ammunition,” like M80s and Roman Candles. Fireworks also cause roughly $20 million worth of property damage every year. In 2008, per the NPFA, fireworks set off 18,000 destructive fires.

Even simple sparklers can easily cause third degree burns; when lit, they can reach temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit; brownies bake at 350 degrees; wood burns at 580 degrees; and glass melts at 900 degrees. In other words, sparklers burn at temperatures 300 degrees hotter than the temperature at which glass melts.

Safety Tips

Follow these safety tips to protect yourself, your family and your neighbors:

  • Rather than set up your own display, go to a safe, regulated community display;
  • Be watchful of children around fireworks. The National Safety Council suggests that older children use fireworks only if adults closely monitor them;
  • Do not light or even handle fireworks that have malfunctioned; instead, soak them in water and then throw them away;
  • Light flammable materials outside, safely away from houses, displays and people;
  • Follow all manufacturer’s directions;
  • Wear eye protection;
  • Keep water on hand to douse any fires;
  • Set off one firework at a time;
  • Do not make your own fireworks – purchase from a reputable, established retailer.

If you or someone you love suffered an injury as a result of a fireworks explosion, you may need to seek legal counsel to protect your rights to obtain compensation for medical care, lost work time, pain and suffering and other damages.

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