COLUMBUS — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Report, estimated that, in 2017, injuries from fireworks increased by 16 percent from the previous year. An estimated 12,900 Americans were injured by fireworks with 67 percent occurring around the month of the Fourth of July holiday. Nearly 50 percent of injuries were to bystanders and 36 percent to children under 15 years of age. Sadly, the CPSC also reported eight non-occupational fireworks-related deaths. The 2018 CPSC Fireworks Report will be released by the end of this month.
The CPSC states that burns from fireworks are the most common injury to all parts of the body, except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eyes occurred more frequently. Last year 1,200 fireworks injuries were to the eye and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately one third of eye injuries from fireworks result in permanent blindness.
Fireworks laws vary from state to state and sometimes, within different counties. In Ohio, it is not legal to discharge consumer fireworks including firecrackers, missiles, bottle rockets and fountains. Unfortunately, more and more states are going the route of legalizing consumer discharge of backyard fireworks with dire consequences. Study results from Iowa, a state that just experienced its second summer of legal consumer fireworks use after a decades-long ban, show injuries due to backyard fireworks doubled in one year and increased by 152 percent over the previous three-year average. In addition, 67 percent of Iowans were in favor of consumer fireworks before the ban was lifted and only 47 percent were in favor after.
A 2016 study, “Effect of Fireworks Laws on Pediatric Fireworks-Related Burn Injuries,” published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research, concluded that the relaxing of fireworks laws in the United States has had a dramatic effect on the severity of the related injuries to children, resulting in more inpatient admissions and longer length of stay in the hospital. In Iowa, fireworks injuries that required surgery increased from 20% before fireworks legalization to 57 percent after legalization.
Prevent Blindness believes that there is no safe way to use fireworks and supports the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except those used in authorized public displays by competent licensed operators. Prevent Blindness facilitates the Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition and Ohioans Against Fireworks whose member organizations educate the public on the dangers of consumer fireworks and endorse public policies to help protect adults and children from needless injuries from fireworks.
In addition to the many healthcare and safety groups that oppose fireworks legalization, other opponents are animal advocates that report that dog shelters are overrun around Independence Day with dogs that have been startled by fireworks discharges and run off. Farmers similarly express concerns as fireworks can startle cattle and other livestock or cause damage to crops. Veterans suffering from PTSD endure symptoms and stress brought on by fireworks discharge.
“The Fourth of July can still be fun without backyard fireworks or sparklers,” said Sherry Williams. President & CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “By attending only fireworks shows run by licensed professionals, and being vigilant, we can celebrate our nation’s birthday with family and friends, not in the emergency room.”
For more information on the dangers of fireworks, visit www.preventblindness.org/prevent-eye-injuries-fireworks.
Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation’s leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is Ohio’s leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing blindness and preserving sight.