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Fireworks are for Professionals Only: Leading health and safety advocates call for ban on consumer fireworks

New York, Jul 02, 2004

The traditions of parades, picnics, and fireworks to celebrate Independence Day have endured in America since the early 1800s. Unfortunately, every year fireworks used by consumers cause thousands of injuries and fires. Led by ANSI member the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), several leading health and safety groups are again urging a ban on consumer fireworks as Fourth of July 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.

According to NFPA, amateur fireworks use endangers not only the users, but also bystanders and surrounding property and structures. Pyrotechnic devices ranging from sparklers to aerial rockets cause thousands of fires and serious injuries each year.

"Safe and sane fireworks don't exist," says Dr. John Hall, NFPA assistant vice president of Fire Analysis and Research. "When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond."

In recent years, fireworks have been one of the leading causes of injuries serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment. Fireworks can result in severe burns, fractures, or scars or even death or disfigurement that can last a lifetime. The thousands of serious injuries each year typically harm the eyes, head, or hands, and are mostly reported in states where fireworks are legal. Even sparklers, which are considered by many to be harmless, reach temperatures of more than 1,000° F.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a new report recently that cited an estimated 9,300 hospital emergency room visits for fireworks-related injuries in 2003. The number of injuries has decreased significantly from the highs of 1992 to 1994, when injuries averaged 12,500 a year. In explaining the reduction, CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton stated: “Rigorous enforcement, increased consumer awareness, and the work of reputable fireworks manufacturers have helped to reduce injuries from fireworks, but we still have a long way to go.”

CPSC provides recommends the following important fireworks safety tips:

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Adults should always supervise fireworks activities.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Never allow young children to ignite fireworks.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.

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

See also: Media Tips and Case Studies – Fireworks

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