Firework Safety: Explosive Facts You Need To Know

I think all health care providers have certain patients that leave a lasting impression on them. One of mine was a young boy with terrible burns and half of his hand grossly injured due to an unfortunate 4th of July accident.

He was playing, just as all the other children and adults were doing that day. They were all holding sparklers and waving them around, so it seemed okay to pick up another type of firework that lay nearby on the ground. The tail caught fire from a spark and before he knew it…BOOM… the thing went off in his hand instead of in the sky.

Sadly, this scenario is not an uncommon occurrence. According to the most recent US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Annual Report just released last week, around 12,900 individuals sought emergency care in 2017 due to incidents with fireworks. Why should we pay attention NOW… like this week? Well, a whopping 67% of those injuries occurred during the 30 days surrounding the July 4th holiday. Though that statistic alone should get people’s attention, what stunned me most was the fact that nearly 1,500 injuries reported involved not M80s, but rather sparklers and bottle rockets that are commonly and mistakenly considered safe for children.

Injuries due to fireworks can range all the way from minor burns to more severe cases of amputation, head injury, and even death. But take note that it’s not just the illegal ones that are harmful. The fun-looking favors you can buy off the shelves at your local grocery store can pack just as much of a punch. Did you know that sparklers can burn at temperatures of 2,000⁰ F? That’s like blow torch temps, hot enough to melt metals. Yikes.

The most effective path to injury prevention by far is education and responsible adult supervision. And yes, during parties and celebrations where one too many alcoholic beverages may factor in sound decision making, this may mean adults supervising other adults.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission Fireworks Information Center has made it part of its mission to promote firework safety. Here are just some of their tips highlighted for safe use of fireworks in the community.

Did you know…

  • … you should avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper? This is typically an indication they were made for professional displays and should not be used by the general consumer.
  • … you should have a bucket of water and/or working garden hose nearby before lighting any fireworks? In the case of accidental fire or a malfunctioning firework, you’ll want to douse with water quickly.
  • … you should never try to relight or handle a firework that fizzled? If it doesn’t light the first time, soak it with water and discard.
  • … the safest strategy is to assign one responsible adult to light the fireworks one at a time? They can control the situation and focus on keeping everyone else out of harm’s way.
  • … it’s extremely dangerous to light fireworks in a glass or metal container? The container can shatter and cause as much injury as the flame itself.
  • … it’s best to put all used fireworks in a bucket with water to soak for 20 minutes? They can then be discarded in an outdoor trash can safely.

My hope is that my young patient mentioned above recovered fully and went on to educate all of his pals on the dangers of what many consider to be harmless and common holiday festivities. My hope is that you will now, too!

Meanwhile, enjoy the holiday, and I wish you all a very happy and very safe 4th of July!

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted in 2014 and updated for accuracy in 2018.

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