Leave the fireworks to the experts — About 1,730 fireworks injuries were to the eyes in 2018


Staff report



COLUMBUS — The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of State Fire Marshal, Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition joined forces at the Ohio Statehouse today to educate Ohioans about the dangers of backyard fireworks.

Ohioans are urged NOT to use backyard fireworks because of the high fire danger and the risk of personal injury – specifically to young children – and the potential penalty for breaking Ohio’s fireworks law.

According to the 2018 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Annual Report released this week, 9,100 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries. An estimated 5,600 fireworks-related injuries, or 62 percent of people treated, occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July Holiday.

“Prevent Blindness supports a total BAN on consumer discharge of backyard fireworks, including sparklers, which are widely available at grocery and department stores,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “Unfortunately, more and more states are going the route of legalization with dire consequences. Study results from Iowa, a state that just experienced its first summer of legal consumer fireworks use after a decades-long ban, show injuries due to backyard fireworks increased by 152% over the previous three-year average. In addition, 67% of Iowans were in favor of consumer fireworks before the ban was lifted and only 47% were in favor after,” added Williams,

Injuries to children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of the estimated firework-related injuries. This specific population also represented the highest estimated rate of emergency department treated fireworks injuries. The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 28 percent); legs (an estimated 24 percent); eyes (an estimated 19 percent or 1,729 eye injuries); head, face, and ears (an estimated 15 percent); trunk (an estimated 10 percent); and arms (an estimated 4 percent).

Sarah Denny, MD, Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and co-chair of the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “Many parents believe the myth that these products can be used safely or that smaller fireworks such as bottle rockets and sparklers are fun and safe. However, bottle rockets cause almost 60% of firework-related eye injuries and are the most common cause of fireworks-related structure fires. Sparklers burn at >10000F, which can result in an instant skin burn or easily ignite clothing. Two-thirds of sparkler-related injuries are among children younger than 5 years.”

There are three types of fireworks in Ohio, all of which are hazardous: Trick and novelty items such as sparklers and snakes that can be legally sold and used by anyone; exhibitor fireworks which require a license to sell, purchase and use; and consumer class fireworks such as bottle rockets and roman candles, which require a license to sell. Consumer fireworks can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18, but must be removed from the state within a certain timeframe and cannot be legally discharged in Ohio.

“The Division of State Fire Marshal encourages all Ohioans to attend public fireworks displays. These displays are hosted by local municipalities and licensed exhibitors,” said Josh Hobbs, Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau Chief. “Besides being safer and legal, professional fireworks displays are better than any exhibit that could be produced with consumer fireworks.”

Eric Rathburn, of Columbus, knows the importance of avoiding backyard fireworks displays. He was injured by a firework misfire during a pre-July 4th party in 2009. Like many victims of fireworks injuries, Eric Rathburn was an innocent bystander. The firework flew through the crowd, hitting his glasses and knocking him backwards (in a lawn chair) to the ground. The force broke the lens in his right eye, cutting his eye and causing permanent damage.

“My glasses had flown off of me as I hit the ground. It felt like someone had sucker punched me in the eye as I was falling. After that I did not see anything,” said Rathburn. “I no longer watch any fireworks. I tell everyone I know that they should stay away from backyard fireworks and current Ohio laws are there to protect our safety.”

Fireworks Safety Facts:

In 2018, 9,100 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries.

There were 5 non-occupational fireworks-related deaths.

5,600 of the injuries (62 percent) occurred during a one-month period around the Fourth of July Holiday.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Approximately one-third of eye injuries from fireworks result in permanent blindness. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/108/1/190.full.pdf

In Ohio in 2018, fire incidents involving fireworks caused 24 Building Fires, resulting in an estimated $291,700 in property loss and $49,550 in content loss. Thirteen of those Building Fires occurred in July of 2018. In total, there were 76 fire incidents involving fireworks reported for 2018, with an estimated $319,921 in property loss and $50,150 in content loss (Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office).

The National Fire Protection Agency states that almost half of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks. http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fire-causes/fireworks

The size of the fireworks product is no indication of the amount of the explosive material inside it.

The major causes of injuries are due to delayed or early fireworks explosions, errant flight paths of rockets, debris from aerial fireworks, and mishandling of sparklers.

Firecrackers (1,000), reloadable shells (700), sparklers (500) and multiple tubes (500) accounted for the most injuries during the one-month period around the Fourth of July Holiday.

The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 28 percent); legs (an estimated 24 percent); eyes (an estimated 19 percent or 1,729 eye injuries); head, face, and ears (an estimated 15 percent); trunk (an estimated 10 percent); and arms (an estimated 4 percent).

Sparklers, often given to young children, burn at 1200 degrees or even hotter—hot enough to melt copper.

For children under the age of five there were 400 injuries, with sparklers accounting for more than 50 percent of the estimated injuries for that age group.

Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for approximately 36 percent of the total injuries in 2018 or estimated 3,276 injuries in 2018. More than half of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were to individuals younger than 20 years of age.

Of the fireworks-related injuries sustained, 64 percent were to males, and 36 percent were to females.

Prevent Blindness has these tips to help prevent fireworks-related injuries:

Do not purchase, use or store fireworks of any type.

Be aware that even sparklers are dangerous and caused 44 percent of fireworks injuries in children five years old and younger last year.

Prevent Blindness has these tips to help prevent fireworks-related injuries:

Protect yourself, your family and your friends by avoiding fireworks.

Attend only authorized public fireworks displays conducted by licensed operators, but be aware that even professional displays can be dangerous

Support policies that ban the importation, general sale and indiscriminate usage of fireworks by children and adults

The Ohio Eye Care Coalition offers the following guidance in responding to eye injuries:

Do not delay medical attention, even for seemingly mild injuries. “Mild” injuries can worsen and end in vision loss or even blindness that might not have occurred had a doctor provided treatment early on.

Do not rub the eye nor attempt to rinse out the eye.

Avoid giving aspirin or ibuprofen to try to reduce the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs thin the blood and might increase bleeding. Acetaminophen is the over-the-counter drug of choice.

Do not apply ointment or any medication. It is probably not sterile. In addition, ointments make the eye area slippery, which could slow the doctor’s examination at a time when every second counts.

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Staff report