Health And Safety Advocates Call For Ban On Consumer Fireworks

Washington, D.C. – Every year fireworks used by consumers cause thousands of injuries and fires. So again this year, leading health and safety groups urge a ban on consumer fireworks as Independence Day celebrations get underway. Citing deaths, injuries and fires, the group strongly suggests that adults not use these devices and instead attend public fireworks displays, conducted by professionals.

Members of the group are:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Association for Hand Surgery (new member, this year)
  • American Burn Association (new member, this year)
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs (new member, this year)
  • International Association of Fire Fighters (new member, this year)
  • International Fire Marshals Association
  • National Association of State Fire Marshals
  • National Fire Protection Association

The group came forward on July 1 in Washington to call attention to the dangers of seemingly harmless fireworks. One of the most powerful facts: In 2002, eight out of nine emergency department fireworks injuries involved fireworks that federal regulations permit consumers to use.

Fireworks can result in scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime, the group said. Sparklers, for example, can burn up to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Injuries and deaths: There were an estimated 8,800 people injured by fireworks who were treated in a hospital emergency department in 2002. In the same year, four people died, according to U.S. death certificate records. Nearly two-thirds of fireworks injuries were burns, according to a newly-released report from NFPA. More than one-third of fireworks injuries were to the head, with one-fifth of the total involving the eye. Half of all injuries were to the extremities.

Gender and ages: Males accounted for 71 percent of the fireworks injuries. The female injury rate was higher than the male rate for adults, ages 45 or older. Highest risk of fireworks injuries was to teens and preteens. Children ages 10-14 had a fireworks injury rate three times the general population, the rate for children five to nine was more than twice as high as average, and the rate for teens 15-19 was twice that of the population as a whole.

Fires: In 1999, the latest year for which there are statistics, an estimated 24,200 reported fires were started by fireworks. Most of these fires were outdoor brush or refuse fires, but most of the loss occurred in fires with structures involved. These fires can start with outdoor use of fireworks, as when a bottle rocket, launched outside, lands on a roof or other location not easily accessed, where it can ignite combustibles before anyone can retrieve it.

Fireworks are typically the leading cause of fires on Independence Day.

Cost of fires: $17.2 million in property damage for 1999.

States than ban all fireworks: At present, only seven states ban all consumer fireworks. They are: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Such bans have been linked to significantly lower rates of fireworksrelated injuries and fires.

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