Fireworks are fun, but it’s more fun if you can keep all your body parts intact. The 4th of July and fireworks go together like, well, the 4th of July and fireworks. Unfortunately, there are more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries every year, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO). About 45 percent of those involve children age 15 or under, and eyes are among the most injured body parts. One in six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness.
On the 4th of July, children are most likely to play with sparklers, but the innocent-looking sparkler can be very dangerous. Sparklers can easily ignite clothing and generally burn at 1,200-2,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to cause third-degree burns to the skin.
Out-of-control bottle rockets are responsible for many serious eye injuries, including corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, and rupture of the eyeball – all of which can lead to potential blindness.
The AAO offers steps to prevent fireworks-related eye injuries:
- Don’t handle fireworks unless you and all bystanders are wearing protective eyewear.
- Don’t let young children play with fireworks. Older children should wear protective eyewear and be closely supervised by an adult.
- Make sure there are no flammable materials in the area.
- View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
Of course, it’s better to avoid the backyard display put on by amateurs in favor of a professional public fireworks display. When you attend a professional fireworks display, follow these safety tips:
- Stay behind safety barriers.
- Don’t touch unexploded fireworks: always contact local fire or police departments to help.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately if you, or someone near you, suffers a fireworks-related eye injury.
“It’s crucial that the public understand the potentially devastating dangers that backyard fireworks shows can present,” said Philip R. Rizzuto, M.D., ophthalmologist and communications secretary for the AAO.
A study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that in 2011, 65 percent of all fireworks injuries happened during the 30 days surrounding Independence Day. In addition to the eyes, those injuries included burns to the hands, head, face, and ears. Sparklers, firecrackers, and aerial devices were cited most often.
The CPSC report said that faster-than-expected explosions and unpredictable flight paths of areal devices resulted in tragic consequences, including four fireworks-related deaths.
Laws regarding fireworks vary from state to state. Check the laws in your state before purchasing fireworks. The CPSC advices that fireworks that are packaged in brown paper often signal products made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers. Other CPSC fireworks safety tips include:
- Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
- Read all instructions carefully.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks complete burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
Have a happy and a safe Independence Day celebration.