Every year in the United States, we celebrate the Fourth of July with community parades, picnics, barbecues, and fireworks - the things of which happy memories are made. But sadly, Independence Day also includes tragic events resulting from fireworks use. The safest way to enjoy them is through public displays conducted by professional pyrotechnicians hired by communities.
Who is at Most Risk?
In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks-related injuries. 73 percent of these injuries occurred between June 18 - July 18. Of these:
65 percent were to males and 35 percent were to females.
Children under 15 years old accounted for 40 percent of the estimated injuries.
Children and young adults under 20 years old had 53 percent of the estimated injuries.
An estimated 900 injuries were associated with firecrackers. Of these, an estimated 30 percent were associated with small firecrackers, 17 percent with illegal firecrackers, and 53 percent where the type of firecracker was not specified.
An estimated 1,200 injuries were associated with sparklers and 400 with bottle rockets.
The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (30 percent), legs (22 percent), eyes (21 percent), and head, face, and ears (16 percent).
More than half of the injuries were burns. Burns were the most common injury to all parts of the body except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eye occurred more frequently.
Most patients were treated at the emergency department and then released. An estimated 7 percent of patients were treated and transferred to another hospital or admitted to the hospital.
By the Numbers: Fireworks
8,600 Number of injuries caused by fireworks in 2010
2 out of 5 People injured by fireworks in 2010 were under 15 years of age
18,000 Number of fires caused by fireworks in 2009
$38 million Amount of direct property loss caused by fireworks in 2009
Sources: Consumer Product Safety Commission and National Fire Protection Association
They haven't been legal in Maine since 1949 until this year.
While the rate of injury has stayed the same for more than three decades, Americans now set off seven times more fireworks. Nearly all US fireworks come from China, and for every 100,000 pounds imported in 1976, roughly 38 people were injured. In 2010, the same amount of fireworks hurt only four people.
Some credit goes to improved screening. In the late 1980s, the CPSC reported that more than half of the Chinese fireworks tested failed to meet federal standards. A not-for-profit lab now screens millions of imported cases. Failure rates are now 6 percent.
Heckman argues that, in some ways, legalizing fireworks is one of the best things a state can do for safety. Once fireworks are legal, scofflaws no longer need to hide their activities, she says. Parents can keep a closer eye on kids and ignite fireworks in safe places.
"In the areas where fireworks are permitted, people tend to use them appropriately," she says. "They take the time to plan their activity. They make sure that they read the instructions before use."
Those safety messages are everywhere inside Pyro City. Each box of fireworks comes plastered in warning labels. After every sale, a cashier hands the customer a pamphlet of safety tips. And the store's owner, Steve Marson, says that he runs safety demonstrations with town fire departments.
"Even legal fireworks, unfortunately, can cause burns and injuries," says Nikki Fleming, a spokeswoman for the CPSC.
In fact, sparklers, which many would assume are the safest fireworks, actually cause the most injuries each year.
The problem? Parents hand them to kids. More than half of sparkler accidents hurt children under the age of 15, according to the CPSC.
"Families may have felt safer, thinking that [a sparkler] was a smaller device," says Ms. Fleming. "Sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees [F.], as hot as a blowtorch. Keep that in mind when handing them to your child."
you don't get what you wish for ~ you get what you work for
As Symbols Clash, Fireworks Lose Out to a Hamlet?s Bald Eagles
By AARON EDWARDS
The traditional parade through the tiny downtown of Narrowsburg, N.Y., will still go on as planned on Wednesday. Residents of the hamlet, population just over 400, will feast on barbecued chicken, as they do every Independence Day. But the annual fireworks display, held on the Fourth of July for decades, has been canceled ? a victim of a clash with another historical symbol of patriotism.
The local volunteer Fire Department that was to sponsor the display announced last week that it was canceling the event after it was told by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that it could face up to $200,000 in fines if the fireworks caused any harm to any of the bald eagles that live in the area.
The welfare of the bird that is the official emblem of this nation is not taken lightly in the community ? about 100 miles northwest of Manhattan ? which is known as the Bald Eagle Capital of New York State.
?The eagles have lived here, and the fireworks have been here, too, so they are obviously used to it,? said Bruce Gettel, a member of the Lava Volunteer Fire Department, which had planned to put on the fireworks. ?It?s real ironic that we?re celebrating our independence, but you can?t be independent with our celebration.? He said more people in the community were likely to complain now than they had in the past.
Questions were raised after last year?s celebration when an unidentified resident went to a local newspaper, The River Reporter, and said that the fireworks had startled an eagle. Word eventually reached the Fish and Wildlife Service, and federal officials met with local leaders last week to reiterate the rules and regulations for eagle preservation: no fireworks within a half-mile of a nest if it is in a wooded area; none within a mile of nests in open areas.
Carol Wingert, the town supervisor of Tusten, which includes Narrowsburg, said on Tuesday evening that the fireworks display, which had been held on the banks of the Delaware River about half a mile from the hamlet?s center, violated the rules because they were within a mile of bald eagle nests.
Mr. Gettel, noting the potential for a large fine, said, ?We just didn?t want to take any chances.? The Fire Department will lose its $3,200 deposit toward the display, he said.
Residents of the hamlet, which sits on the New York-Pennsylvania border, have reacted to the cancellation of the fireworks with anger and confusion. The celebration, which has been held in the hamlet since the early 1900s, has been a staple in the area, bringing in visitors and money, according to Mr. Gettel, a lifelong resident of Narrowsburg.
Tom Joseph Prendergast, a retiree and lifelong resident, says he sees eagles fly by his home near the river. He estimates there are 20 to 30 eagles who nest in the area during the summer.
?My phone has been ringing off the hook ever since they announced this,? he said. ?These fireworks are something that everyone loves and has been in favor of. People are up in arms about this.?
Narrowsburg officials conceded that something would be missing without the fireworks, but said there was no time to work out a way to salvage them this year. ?We?ve had fireworks for over 100 years here,? Ms. Wingert said. ?People are very upset about this.?