Off-the-Job Safety: Groups Want Ban on Fireworks

Every year, around this time, reports of fireworks-related injuries begin appearing in the news. The reports slowly build until they reach a peak on July 4, then taper off for another year.

The use of fireworks by the public is banned in many states, and now the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are urging a nationwide ban on fireworks use. The groups recommend that children and their parents enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals.

Nearly half of all consumer fireworks-related injuries occur among children under the age of 15, according to a 2001 AAP policy statement on fireworks-related injuries. In all age groups, there were 8,500 injuries requiring emergency medical treatment and 16 deaths in 1999 as a result of injuries associated with legal and illegal fireworks.

Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime. Even fireworks mistakenly thought to be safe, like sparklers, can burn users and bystanders because they reach temperatures above 1,000 F. Eye damage accounts for 20 percent of all fireworks injuries, according to AAP, and some of these injuries result in permanent blindness. Other common sites for injury are hands (40 percent) and head and face (20 percent).

"Every type of consumer firework has been associated with serious injury or death," says AAP President Louis Z. Cooper, MD. "Too many children have become victims of these preventable injuries. We encourage parents and children who want to enjoy fireworks to do so at public displays conducted by professionals."

Overall, there were nearly 22,000 fires associated with fireworks use in 1998 alone, according to a recent NFPA report. On Independence Day, fireworks cause more fires in the U.S. than all other causes of fire on that day combined, the report cites.

"When things go wrong with fireworks, they go very wrong, very fast, far faster than any fire protection provisions can reliably respond," said Meri-K Appy, vice president for public education at NFPA. "The amateur use of fireworks is potentially dangerous not only to users, but also to bystanders and nearby property."

At present, eight states ban all consumer fireworks. Significantly lower rates of fireworks-related injuries and fires are seen in these states, according to AAP.

To learn more about fireworks, please see NFPA's fact sheet on fireworks (www.nfpa.org) and information on the AAP Web site (www.aap.org).

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