Q: It's about 3 weeks before the Fourth of July and all the town fireworks events are still ahead. Yet I will soon probably be hearing the sound of firecrackers in the neighborhoods, and that often means that unsupervised kids are playing with them. How big a problem is injury from fireworks?
A: Nationally there are about 9,000 injuries caused by fireworks, mostly burns, reported in emergency rooms in any given year, with about 7,000 occurring in the two weeks before and after the Fourth. Half these injuries occur to persons under 15 years old, and one out of five involves the eye. In 1997 there were about 20,000 fires caused by fireworks causing an additional nearly 23 million dollars in damage. These statistics come from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Q: I think all of us remember playing with firecrackers when we were young. Were any of those easily available particularly dangerous?
A: It is a miracle that half my childhood friends aren't wearing eye-patches. In fact, the one we thought was safest and dullest is the biggest trouble maker. The lowly sparkler is the most common single cause of injury, because it's the product most commonly placed in the hands of a young child. Firecrackers came in second. Bottle rockets cause nearly half the eye injuries. As I recall the days of yore, many of our scariest adventures occurred after Independence Day with leftover fireworks that parents thought they would save until next year.
Q: What are the states and organizations advocating for children doing about the problem?
A: At the state level, in the New England and Atlantic coastal states, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey have banned the sale of all consumer used fireworks. Connecticut, Vermont and Maine allow fireworks in the sparkler class. New Hampshire, like most states, allows the sale and possession of all federally permitted fireworks. Most physician groups, including pediatricians, eye specialists, and plastic surgeons all support the total ban that Massachusetts has instituted. I urge parents to let the professionals do it and let their children enjoy the show from a distance. As for the leftovers, get rid of them now so they don't injure your kids later in the summer.
Helpful link: http:// cpsc.gov/info/fireworks/index.html
Safe use and strategies