4th of July: Healthcare perspective of firework safety

Firework safety
Every year thousands of people are injured by the use and misuse of fireworks, especially in and around the 4th of July. Many of them are children and a few even die from their injuries. This concerns doctors not only because of their duty to heal others, but because approximately 82% of victims of fireworks-related injuries during 2012 were treated at the ER and released; 11% were treated and transferred to another hospital; 5% were admitted; and the rest (3%) left without being seen. These numbers are culled from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 2012 (and latest) Fireworks Annual Report, and they clearly indicate that hospital space, doctors’ time, and medical supplies like dressings and bandages are being spent -some would say wasted- on easily preventable injuries.

buy now

Six non-occupational, fireworks- related deaths were reported to the CPSC during 2012, and each one of them illustrates the utter neglect there is for firework safety among the general public.

1.       March 7; Nebraska - A 30 year old male making illegal fireworks sustained serious injuries to his entire body when pyrotechnic chemicals spontaneously produced multiple explosions. Victim died five days later.

2.       July 4; Arkansas - Two 17 year old males built a sparkler bomb with 300 sparklers and electrical tape. They lit the fuse but could not get away before the bomb exploded. Both were taken to the hospital where one was pronounced dead.

3.       July 4; Illinois - A 30 year old male attempted to light a mortar-type firework. The victim went to investigate the firework after it failed to go off; when it finally did, it caused extensive damage to his face as well as brain injuries. The victim was declared dead six days later.

4.       July 4; Indiana - A 26 year old male planted two PVC pipes in his backyard to be used as mortars for artillery shells. The first shell went off without incident. The second, put into the tube less than a minute after the first, ignited and hit the victim in the head as he was looking down the tube.

5.       July 4; Washington - A 61 year old male bought professional- grade firework devices and set up two PVC pipes to launch them. The victim failed to launch a 3" mortar because the tube was too tall and the fuse was not extending out of it. His wife put her arm in the tube and pulled the firework out by the fuse. The victim then lowered the firework down the pipe while holding onto the fuse and suspended the firework in the pipe by holding the fuse from outside of the pipe. The victim lit a match and the mortar exploded. The victim suffered injuries to his head and chest and was pronounced dead at the scene.

6.       December 25; Mississippi - A 60 year old male from set off at least one homemade firework device, which exploded unexpectedly. Cause of death was blunt force trauma.

These six deaths are within the averaged of 6.6 a year between the years of 2000 and 2012; or 86 fireworks-related deaths reported to the CPSC during the period.

Non-fatal injuries are also a product of carelessness more often than not; more specifically misuse, malfunction, and other.

Misuse

Malfunction

Other

·         Holding fireworks in hand.

·         Lighting fireworks improperly.

·         Playing with used fireworks.

·         Igniting fireworks too close to someone.

·         Setting fireworks improperly.

·         Playing with lit fireworks.

·         Errant flight path.

·         Debris.

·         Possible debris.

·         Unknown.

 

The report estimated that there were 5,200 fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments during the June22, 2012- July 22, 2012 period. They were caused by firecrackers (small, illegal, unspecified), 1,200/23%; rockets (bottle rockets and other), 600/12%; other devices (sparklers, fountains, novelties, multiple tube, reloadable shells, roman candles, helicopters), 1,800/36%; and homemade and altered devices (public display, pest control devices, unspecified), 1600/29%.

2012 estimated fireworks-related injuries by gender, age group, region injured and type of injury

Gender

%

Age

%

Region injured

%

Type of injury

%

Male

74

0-4

10

Hand/finger

41

Burns

57

Female

26

5-9

10

Head/face/ear

19

Other

20

 

 

10-14

9

Trunk

15

Contusions/lacerations

18

15-19

15

Leg

13

Fractures and sprains

5

20-24

16

Eye

12

 

25-44

23

Arm

1

45-64

15

 

65+

1

What can doctors do to improve awareness of firework safety, especially pediatricians, given the high percentages of injured children? A few measures they could take include educating parents, children, community leaders, and others about the dangers of fireworks; advising children and their families to attend public fireworks displays instead of purchasing fireworks for home use; and working to increase the number of communities and states that forbid the private use of all fireworks.