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For Americans, Fourth of July celebrations usually signify summer fun, vacations, and the gathering of family and friends, but Independence Day can also bring tragedy. In a typical year, more U.S. fires are reported on July 4 than on any other day and fireworks account for half of those fires. Sparklers, firecrackers, and rockets are the leading contributors to these injuries. Because most fireworks injuries are preventable, everyone can enjoy a safe and happy holiday by following a few fireworks safety tips.
Who is at Most Risk?
In 2007, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 9,800 people for fireworks related injuries.
* 56% of 2007 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head.
* 49% of the 2007 fireworks injuries were burns, while 29% were contusions and lacerations.
* Two of 5 people injured by fireworks were under the age of 15.
* The risk of fireworks injury was 2 ½ times as high for children ages 5-14 as for the general population.
* Sparklers, fountains, and novelties alone accounted for 56% of the emergency room fireworks injuries in 2007.
How and Why Do These Injuries Occur?
* Availability: In spite of federal regulations and varying state prohibitions, many types of fireworks are still accessible to the public. Distributors often sell fireworks near state borders, where laws prohibiting sales on either side of the border may differ.
* Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, some of which are sold legally in some states, bottle rockets can fly into peoples' faces and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing (sparklers burn at more than 1,000°F); and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range.
* Being too close: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
* Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.
* Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
* Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.
What Can I Do?
* The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.
* Kids should never play with fireworks. Sparklers can reach 1,800° Fahrenheit (982° Celsius) — hot enough to melt gold.
* Steer clear of others — fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.
* Don't allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
* Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they'll run loose or get injured.