An estimated 11,400 people nationwide were treated last year in emergency departments for fireworks injuries, with the firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets that dominate backyard displays causing the most injuries during the month that surrounds the Fourth of July holiday, health and safety officials say.
At a Statehouse news conference yesterday, a Nationwide Children’s Hospital physician and a chief deputy fire marshal urged Ohioans to leave fireworks displays to professionals, saying that even the smallest of fireworks can cause serious injuries.
“There is no safe way to use backyard fireworks,” said Dr. Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and a pediatric emergency-medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s .
Children younger than 15 account for 40 percent of fireworks injuries, many of which occurred under the watchful eyes of parents, Smith said.
When those parents have rushed into his emergency room, invariably they say the same thing, Smith said. Doctor, I was standing right there. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to react.
“These are good parents who simply believed the myth that these products could be used safely,” Smith said. “Do not make that mistake with your family.”
The fireworks industry stresses caution when using consumer fireworks but says that potential dangers must be kept in perspective. Used properly, the industry says, fireworks pose no greater threat than many other summertime activities.
The American Pyrotechnics Association notes that just a fraction of a percent of the millions of nonfatal injuries to Americans each year is attributed to fireworks. Candles, curling irons and Christmas lights all surpass fireworks when it comes to injuries, the association said.
The local safety campaign coincided yesterday with the release of the 2013 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Fireworks Injury Report, which includes the most-recent data on fireworks injuries and deaths in the United States. The report’s authors rely on hospital-admission reports, death certificates, news clippings and other sources to estimate injuries nationwide.
In 2012, the commission estimated that 8,700 people went to emergency rooms for treatment of fireworks-related injuries. About 5,200 of them were treated during the 30 days surrounding July 4.
Those estimates rose 31 percent last year to 11,400, with 7,400 or 65 percent of them occurring during the same 30-day stretch.
Ohio Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Jeffrey A. Leaming said the 2012 numbers likely were lower because a severely dry year prompted bans on all types of open burning across much of the country.
Smith, who also directs Nationwide Children’s Center for Injury Research and Policy, said research has found that 1 in 4 American children with fireworks-related injuries were bystanders at backyard displays.
Many of those injuries don’t involve giant rockets or powerful explosives. Sparklers, which burn at temperatures topping 1,000 degrees, were blamed in the commission report for an estimated 2,300 injuries last year, said Sherry Williams, the president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio.
“Sparklers are a tremendous concern of ours,” Leaming said. “Just because they’re legal doesn’t mean they’re safe. We wouldn’t let children play with fire any other time of year.
“Besides being safer and legal, professional fireworks displays are better than any exhibit that could be produced with consumer fireworks.”
By Theodore Decker - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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