Health and Safety Advocacy Organizations Partner to Prevent Fireworks Injuries and Fires

June 27, 2005

Twenty-one health and fire safety advocacy organizations came together recently in Washington, D.C. to urge consumers not to use fireworks, including sparklers, this Independence Day holiday because of the injuries and damage they cause.

Each year, most people injured by consumer fireworks are children and teens. While the fireworks causing these injuries are legal in the vast majority of states, they reportedly can often lead to severe burns, scars and disfigurement.

“Every year consumer fireworks injure and maim our children,” said James Shannon, president and CEO of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, founded the alliance of health and safety organizations three years ago. “Consumer fireworks are a significant public safety concern shared by doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, and members of the fire service.”

The group also released the following snapshot of the destruction caused by consumer fireworks.

Injuries: In the year 2003, five out of six (84%) of the 9,300 fireworks injuries reported to emergency departments involved fireworks that federal regulations permit consumers to use (formerly known as Class C fireworks). Total injuries were up from 8,800 from 2002. More than one-third (38%) of the 2003 fireworks injuries that presented in emergency departments were to the head, and half (51%) were to the extremities. About 20% of injuries involved the eyes. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of all injuries were burns.

Sixty percent of those injured were age 19 or younger. The highest risk of fireworks injury was to children, ages 5-9, whose risk in 2003 was nine times the all-age risk; in most other years, children ages 10-14 had the highest risk. Males accounted for nearly three-fourths (72%) of fireworks injuries.

Fires: In the year 2002, the latest year for which national fireworks-related fire statistics are available, fire departments responded to an estimated 3,000 structure and vehicle fires started by fireworks. Outdoor fires, however, can no longer be sorted by cause, as a result of fire coding changes beginning in 1999. But traditionally, on the Independence Day holiday, fireworks cause more fires in the U.S. than all other causes of fire on that day combined.

In the year 2002, fires started by fireworks caused $28 million in property damage to structures and vehicles.

There are currently only six states that ban all consumer fireworks. They are: Arizona, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. When the health and safety alliance was formed three years ago, there were 10 states that banned all consumer fireworks.

The estimated injury risk from legal fireworks was 14 times as high in the states that permitted sparklers and novelties compared to the full-ban states. In states that permit most or all consumer fireworks, the estimated injury risk was 57 times as high compared to states that ban the use of all consumer fireworks.

It is reportedly very difficult to enforce restrictions on fireworks use through state laws because residents of a state that prohibits fireworks can often cross a state border to buy the devices.

Every year, for example, people from Massachusetts reportedly drive into neighboring New Hampshire to buy fireworks from retail stands that set up near the border.

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