WASHINGTON - Shooting off fireworks on Independence Day is becoming more hazardous, according to a Consumer Product Safety Commission study issued June 26.
In 2013, there were eight deaths and an estimated 11,400 consumers who sustained injuries related to fireworks, the CPSC study said. This represents an increase from 8,700 injuries in 2012. Sixty-five percent, or 7,400, of the injuries in 2013 occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4, 2013.
Fireworks malfunctions and improper use are associated with the most injuries, according to the study, which is based on the review of fireworks incident reports from hospital emergency rooms, death certificate files, news clippings and other sources.
Injuries frequently resulted from users playing with lit fireworks or igniting fireworks while holding the device. Consumers also reported injuries related to devices that malfunctioned or devices that did not work as expected, including injuries due to errant flight paths, devices that tipped over and blowouts.
“CPSC works year-round to help prevent deaths and injuries from legal and illegal fireworks,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Bob Adler. “We engage the fireworks industry, monitor incoming fireworks shipments at the ports, and enforce federal safety rules, so that all Americans have a safe Fourth of July.”
Last year, children under age 5 experienced a higher estimated per capita injury rate than any other age group, according to the study. Past reports indicate that consumers sometimes feel comfortable handing off to children fireworks devices perceived to be less powerful, such as sparklers and bottle rockets. In 2013, sparklers and rockets accounted for more than 40 percent of all estimated injuries.
According to the study, fireworks incidents become deadly when banned, professional and home-manufactured devices are involved. In each of the eight fireworks-related deaths recorded in 2013, the victim was manipulating [or was a bystander to someone who was handling] a banned, professional or home-manufactured device.
CPSC enforces the mandatory fireworks requirements in the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act, by working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Together, these agencies monitor products entering the country, stop illegal use and distribution of fireworks and prosecute violators of the federal requirements.
CPSC and CBP staff sampled and tested a select number of imported fireworks in 2013. Of those tested, 33 percent were noncompliant with federal regulations. Violations most often involved overloaded report composition and failure to meet fuse burn-time requirements. These devices never reached the shelves of American stores or fireworks stands.
Consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks are urged to take the following safety steps:
- Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them;
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to melt some metals;
- Always have an adult close by to supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices;
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers;
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks;
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap;
- Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away;
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person;
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly;
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers; and
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.
ATF encourages the public to report the manufacture or sale of illegal fireworks to local law enforcement agencies or to the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).