Last week on the grounds of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued its annual report of deaths and injuries involving legal and illegal fireworks for calendar year 2012.
Fireworks can have a life-altering impact on consumers, including severe eye injuries, loss of limbs, and even death. CPSC works closely with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fireworks, and Explosives; the Department of Transportation; and the Department of Justice to enforce federal safety standards and raise awareness about the dangers of fireworks.
Last year, CPSC received reports of six men who were killed by professional-grade, homemade or banned firework devices. In addition, an estimated 8,700 consumers were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries.
Between June 22, 2012 and July 22, 2012, more than 5,000 consumers were treated in hospital emergency rooms due to fireworks-related injuries. Sixty percent of all fireworks injuries occur during the 30 days surrounding the July 4 holiday. More than half of these reported injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle rockets, fireworks that are frequently and incorrectly considered safe for young children.
Follow-up investigations of incidents showed that most injuries were associated with malfunctioning fireworks or improper use. Malfunctioning fireworks often resulted in unexpected flight paths and dangerous debris. Improper use included igniting fireworks too close to someone, lighting fireworks in one's hand and playing with lit or used fireworks. Most victims recovered from their injuries or were expected to recover completely; however, several victims reported that their injuries might be long term.
Working with CBP, CPSC conducts surveillance on imported fireworks. During 2012, the agencies collected and tested shipments of imported fireworks for compliance with the Federal Hazardous Substance Act (FHSA). About 30 percent of the tested products were found to be in violation of the law and were immediately stopped at the U.S. port. This import surveillance program strives to keep violative and dangerous fireworks off U.S. store shelves and roadside stands.
At the national level, CBP, CPSC and the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) work side-by-side at the CTAC in Washington, DC to effectively combat the importation of illegal fireworks. The CTAC provides a platform for the agencies to share data, analyze import trends and conduct joint risk-based targeting to identify fireworks shipments that pose a safety risk.
Consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks are urged to take these 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 ─ hot enough to melt some metals.
- Always have an adult closely supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices.
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this 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 back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- 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 your local law enforcement agencies or to the ATF hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).