Fireworks and Finger Loss

Fireworks injuries during Fourth of July most often affected hands and fingers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Celebrating Independence Day with food, fun and fireworks is an American Fourth of July tradition. And every year, emergency rooms and trauma centers nationwide become packed with patients who have lost fingers or hands due to firework misuse.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that there was a high number of fireworks-related injuries treated in US hospital emergency departments during a one-month study period.

Damage to the hands and fingers were the most common fireworks injuries and accounted for a large percentage of all reported injuries. The loss of a hand or finger can have serious financial, social and emotional effects.

"If possible, attend a publicly sponsored fireworks show, instead of putting one on at home."

Yongling Tu, of the Division of Hazard Analysis at the CPSC, and colleagues obtained information on fireworks-related deaths and injuries from public news clippings and other sources, in order to estimate fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the US.

These researchers conducted a study of non-job-related fireworks-related injuries occurring between June 22 and July 22, 2012, which included an examination on the types of injuries, the fireworks involved and the characteristics of the victims at each incident.

According to the CPSC, hand and finger burns and cuts are the most common injuries in fireworks accidents. These injuries account for 32 percent of all injuries reported.

About 60 percent of the estimated annual fireworks-related injuries treated at emergency departments in 2012 occurred during the study period, which was within 30 days of the Fourth of July.

“Fireworks are basically explosives and all are capable of causing severe injuries, but even minor injuries can cause significant functional disability when it comes to hand and eye function,” said John Santaniello, MD, trauma surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center, in a press statement. “Fireworks are not toys."

“Losing a finger can mean no more texting which really resonates with people today as a deterrent to risky summer behavior. Lighting up YouTube with an awesome pyrotechnical display for your friends may result in blowing off your thumb, ending for good your ability to communicate using a handheld device,” said Dr. Santaniello.

According to the CPSC study, the parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 41 percent); head, face and ears (an estimated 19 percent); legs (an estimated 13 percent); and eyes (an estimated 12 percent). The approximate cost of a hospital stay for patients who had a fireworks-related amputation of a finger, thumb or lower arm was about $15,600.

“Even fireworks that are classified as ‘safer,’ such as bottle rockets and sparklers, are responsible for some of the most serious wounds treated by emergency physicians,” Dr. Santaniello said.

The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, reported in 2010, that fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, resulting in eight deaths, 60 injuries and $36 million in property damages.

Adding to the danger, states such as Texas and California have been experiencing very dry weather, and the misuse of fireworks could cause wild fires. “Droughts bring an added risk of danger as sparks ignite highly combustible matter, such as grass and roofing,” Santaniello warned.

Here are some fireworks danger reduction tips when celebrating this Fourth of July:

  • If you choose to use legal fireworks, read and follow all directions.
  • Consider glow-in-the-dark toys or noisemakers for children instead of fireworks.
  • Teach children the dangers of fireworks.
  • Call the fire department if you find explosive items around your home. Do not attempt to dispose of them yourself.
  • Keep other combustible materials out of reach. Children may use these in an unsafe way.
  • Do not approach a firework that has been lit, even if it looks like it has gone out.
  • Attend a community fireworks display overseen by professionals instead of using fireworks around your home or neighborhood.
  • When injuries happen, call 9-1-1 to get immediate medical attention.
  • Clear or wet any dry areas if you suspect fireworks may be used near them.
  • Keep fire extinguishers and water hoses nearby.

Dr. Santaniello is employed as trauma doctor at Loyola University Medical Center, and has treated fireworks-related injuries over the years, including loss of fingers and hands, third-degree burns, cuts, and death.

The CPSC researchers obtained information on fireworks-related deaths from the CPSC’s Injury and Potential Injury Incident file (IPII) and the CPSC’s Death Certificate File as well as other sources. The data was reported in the June 2013 CPSC report. No conflicts of interests were noted.

Review Date: 
June 23, 2014
Last Updated:
August 20, 2014