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Fireworks Safety

(last updated 5/29/20)

Independence Day is right around the corner, and even though the celebrations may be a little different this year, one thing is certain…there will be fireworks! With some of the professional displays being cancelled or postponed, many Lowcountry residents will likely be setting off their own fireworks this year. Over $1 billion worth of fireworks are sold each year in the United States. The raw weight of fireworks sold per year is over 250 million pounds! There has been a ten-fold increase in sales over the last 40 years.

Unfortunately, there are also some more sobering fireworks statistics to discuss. Almost 10,000 Americans each year seek treatment in emergency departments for firework injuries. About 10% of these injuries are severe and can result in loss of fingers or blindness. There are even several firework-related fatalities each year. The annual cost of care for all of these injuries is estimated at over $10 million.

The most common injuries seen include burns (50%), hand injuries (33%), and eye injuries (15%). Children age 5-19 have twice the risk of injury. It is also worth noting that 25% of those injured are just bystanders, and 50% had adult supervision when injured.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your family from firework injuries? Here are a few tips:

  1. Leave it to the professionals! Professional displays offer a spectacular show with minimal risk of injury to spectators.
  2. Although several shows have been cancelled or postponed this year, check your local news source to see if there is a public firework display near you, and be sure to follow appropriate social distancing precautions.
  3. Alcohol and fireworks are a dangerous combination. Designate a responsible sober adult to handle the explosives.
  4. Wear eye protection. Projectile fireworks and children with sparklers can be especially unpredictable. Hardware stores sell inexpensive safety glasses that may end up preventing a blinding injury.
  5. Never relight a short fuse or approach a firework that failed to detonate without first dousing it with water.
  6. Never attempt to hold or throw lit fireworks. This causes the majority of hand injuries.
  7. Keep the crowd far back, especially kids and pets.
  8. Douse fireworks in water before picking them up to throw them away. This helps to prevent late detonations, hand burns, and trash fires.

Happy Fourth of July!

Eric Angermeier, MD
Orthopaedic Hand and Wrist Surgeon