COLUMBUS — The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition, the Franklin County Dog Shelter, the Central Ohio Fire Prevention Association, and the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics joined forces in the Shelter’s back yard 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 2019 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Annual Report released last week, an estimated 10,000 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries. An estimated 7,300 fireworks-related injuries, or 73 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,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “The Fourth of July can still be fun without backyard fireworks or sparklers. Not only will you avoid a tragic visit to the emergency room yourself, you will also respect the time, effort and PPE resources available for patients affected by COVID-19 and other health needs,” 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 30 percent); legs (an estimated 23 percent); eyes (an estimated 15 percent or 1,500 eye injuries); head, face, and ears (an estimated 16 percent); trunk (an estimated 6 percent); and arms (an estimated 10 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 percent of firework-related eye injuries and are the most common cause of fireworks-related structure fires. Sparklers burn at more than 10000F, which can result in an instant skin burn or easily ignite clothing. Over half of sparkler-related injuries were 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, fountains 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 time frame and cannot be legally discharged in Ohio.
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, 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.”