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Fireworks Injuries a July 4th Worry

Jun 27, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP While the Fourth of July holds the promise of family, friends, food, and fireworks, the holiday is not without its tragedies.  Last year alone, nearly 10,000 Americans were treated in emergency rooms for firework-related injuries and today, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 64 percent of these injuries occurred in the one month period surrounding the holiday.

Burns are reported as being the most common injury and comprise over half of all incidents.  Hands were the body part most injured with an estimated 2,000 injuries; eye injuries accounted for 1,400 iand legs, 1,200.  Worse, the past decade shows an increase in these dangerous, and often life-threatening, accidents.  Both 2006 and 2007 each saw 11 deaths due to firework accidents.

“No one should go from a backyard celebration to the emergency room with firework related injuries,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord, “Using only legal fireworks and using them correctly is an important step toward celebrating safely.”

According to the CPSC it “is working to keep American families safe by educating the public about the risk of injury associated with fireworks, enforcing fireworks regulations, and by prosecuting dealers and distributors who manufacture and sell illegal explosives.  As a part of its fireworks enforcement program, CPSC actively works with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to investigate roadside stands, warehouses and retail stores that sell professional grade explosives to consumers.”  The group also investigates residences where dangerous fireworks and firework devices are manufactured with investigations resulting in dozens of successful prosecutions by the Justice Department’s Office of Consumer Litigation and U.S. Attorney offices across the country.  Working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at US ports the CPSC ensures shipment compliance with federal regulations.  In collaborative efforts the two groups “selectively sampled and tested over 400 shipments of fireworks
last year. Of these 46 percent were found to contain illegal fireworks.”

The CPSC encourages consumers who use fireworks to use them safely and legally; ensure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Don’t allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks; don’t buy fireworks in brown paper packaging, as this can mean the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers; don’t allow any portion of your body directly over fireworks when lighting the fuse; don’t try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned; don’t point or throw fireworks at another person; and don’t carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.

Do—as an adult--supervise fireworks activities as many injuries occur with small children and sparklers, which burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals; do keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap; do light one item at a time, then move back quickly; do retreat a safe distance immediately after lighting; and do soak the spent device with water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

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