Fireworks Fun and Safety

Fireworks safety officials say these explosives injured thousands of people in 2012

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Skies lit up with fireworks often mark a July 4th holiday. It’s the on-the-ground activity surrounding those festivities that can be cause for serious concern.

It’s important for anyone thinking about enjoying a fireworks display to know about safety. Fireworks can cause serious injury and death, according to officials at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It's also essential to know your area's laws regarding when and where fireworks can be used, experts said.

"Keep children safe around fireworks."

Between June 22, 2012 and July 22, 2012, 5,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, according to a recent report from the federal commission.

For the entire 12 months of 2012, 8,700 people were treated in emergency rooms. Six people died from their injuries. All six were handling either illegal fireworks or fireworks made for use by trained professionals.

"The most common risk with consumer fireworks is burns," said Ralph Apel, a spokesman for the National Council on Fireworks Safety. 

But, Apel added, "This is actually a complicated question because some people get injured [severely] with professional fireworks and illegal explosives and these injuries are simply reported as ‘firework injuries'."

According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission press release about its report on 2012 fireworks injuries, most people are expected to recover fully from those injuries. But some individuals reported that their injuries may cause them long-term problems.

Also, according to the release, "More than half of these reported injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children."

The commission cautions against letting children light any fireworks, including sparklers, or to use them without adult supervision. Some sparklers, for example, can generate enough heat to melt certain metals, according to federal safety officials.

The safety commission also issued these additional fireworks precautions:

  • Always have an adult closely supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices.
  • Do not buy or use fireworks wrapped in brown paper. That often is a sign that they were made for use in professional fireworks displays. 
  • Do not position your body over fireworks when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time. After lighting, immediately back up to a safe distance from the fireworks.
  • In case of fire, keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy.
  • Never relight fireworks that did not light correctly on the first try. That is a sign that the devise is faulty. Instead of relighting, soak the devise in water and throw it away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person or animal.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or any other place on your body.
  • Never put fireworks in metal or glass containers and then light them.
  • After fireworks stop burning, soak them in water before placing in the trash. Lack of care in that area can result in a trash fire.

The commission also asked that those who suspect fireworks are being illegally manufactured or sold report their suspicions to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms hotline.

Each state determines when, where and how fireworks may be used legally within state boundaries. Using state guidelines, counties and local governments sometimes adjust those regulations. For instance, severe drought conditions can result in a total ban on fireworks, which can spark wildfires.

Federal safety officials report that 60 percent of yearly fireworks-related injuries typically occur within those 30 days before and after July 4th.

In addition to July 4th, New Year’s Day is the other holiday when fireworks are most commonly used, said Apel, from the National Council on Fireworks Safety. He said he does not know of any state that allows fireworks outside of those two dates.

As of January 2012, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and New York are the only states that ban all consumer use of fireworks, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. Those four states do license commercial firework companies to run fireworks shows for special events.

Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Vermont allow the commercial displays and give consumers legal access to wood- and wire-stick sparklers and other small, relatively harmless fireworks. The remaining 42 states and the District of Columbia let consumers use a far wider array of fireworks, according to the pyrotechnics organization.

This report was published on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's website.

Review Date: 
June 26, 2013
Last Updated:
September 6, 2013