Thousands of Americans will be preparing to launch fireworks into the sky this weekend to celebrate the nation’s birthday on the Fourth of July. However, a new report shows that firework-related injury rates remain high, with eye injuries having more than doubled in the past 3 years.
The report found that a total of 1,300 eye injuries were treated in emergency rooms last year; around 100 more than 2013 and more than double the 600 reported in 2012.
It appears that many people may not fully understand the dangers of fireworks. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) in San Francisco, only 10% of adults in the US wear eye protection when using fireworks. In contrast, three times this number wear eye protection when participating in other activities such as house cleaning or home repair.
Wearing adequate eye protection can prevent many different kinds of firework-related injuries, including burns to the eye and eyelids, abrasions, retinal detachment and eyeball rupturing. These accidents all have the potential to lead to blindness.
Around 19% of firework-related injuries were to the eyes. In comparison, 36% of injuries affected hands or fingers and another 19% affected the head, face or ears.
The 2014 Fireworks Annual Report published by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an analysis of data on nonoccupational fireworks-related deaths and injuries over the course of last year.
It demonstrates precisely how dangerous fireworks can be, documenting a total of 11 nonoccupational fireworks-related deaths that occurred during 2014. Many of the deaths were related to firework users not being a safe distance from exploding fireworks, with some the result of firework accidents leading to house fires.
The CPSC state reporting of these deaths is incomplete and this figure should be taken as a minimum.
In terms of injuries, a telephone investigation conducted by the CPSC found that around 55% of fireworks-related injuries could be caused by misuse, such as holding lit fireworks and standing too close to fireworks after they have been lit.
In comparison, 26% of injuries were attributed to firework malfunctions such as errant flight paths and 13% to firework debris.
Certain types of fireworks were also found to be more dangerous than others. The report reveals that an estimated 20% of firework-related injuries were caused by firecrackers and 19% were estimated to be caused by sparklers. The cause of 31% of injuries was unspecified.
Despite sparklers appearing much safer than other larger, more impressive fireworks, these figures illustrate just how dangerous they can be. Sparklers can reach temperatures as high as 2,000 degrees – equivalent to a blow torch.
Medical attention should be sought immediately in the event of a firework-related injury. For most injuries, it is advised that the burning process is stopped with clean, cool water and the injury is wrapped with a clean, dry towel.
Eye injuries should be dealt with differently, however. The AAO state that people who receive an eye injury should resist the urge to rub, rinse or apply pressure to the eyes, or attempt to remove any objects that may be lodged there.
“Each year we see many people, especially children and teens, injured around the Fourth of July celebrations. Many of the injuries involve an amputation of a limb or loss of vision,” says Dr. Jenny Ziembicki, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).
“It should be remembered that no consumer fireworks should ever be considered safe and that all fireworks should be left to the hands of trained professionals.”
Last year, Medical News Today ran a Spotlight feature on firework-related injuries after a 30% increase had been reported from the previous year, investigating whether relaxed laws were to blame.