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Trauma Foundation
SF General Hospital
Bldg 1 Rm 300
San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone:415/821-8209
Fax: 415/821-8202
email: tf@traumaf.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 29, 2004

 

 


Fireworks-Related Injuries & Deaths

 in the United States

The distinctive sound of fireworks is part of the celebration of special events and holidays around the world.  In the United States both Independence Day (4th of July) and the New Year are celebrated with fireworks.  Sometimes these celebrations are marred by deaths and injuries from the very fireworks that announce the holiday.

Facts on Injuries from Fireworks in the United States  
Most injuries and deaths from fireworks in the United States (66%) occur around the 4th of July holiday.

In the United States in 2002,  8,800 people were treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries. Four people died from these injuries.  Fifty percent of fireworks injuries occurred among children 14 years and younger. Seventy-five percent of fireworks injuries occurred among boys as compared to 25% among girls.  More than half of the injuries (66%) involved burns; the hands and fingers (32%), eyes (21%), and the head and face (17%) were the parts of the body most frequently injured.

Most injuries occur with Class C or Consumer Fireworks. The type of firework that seems the most harmless but actually causes the greatest number of injuries is the sparkler.  Itís temperature can reach up to 1000 degrees Farenheit.2 

Estimated Fireworks-Related Injuries by Device Type
June 21-July 21, 2002

Fireworks  Device Type                 Estimated Injuries Percent
Total   5,700 100
All Firecrackers 1,000 18
Small 400 7
Illegal 200 4
Unspecified 400 7
All Rockets 800 15
Bottle Rockets 700 12
Other Rockets 100 2
All Selected Other Devices 2,600 46
Sparklers 1,500 26
Fountains 300 6
  Novelties 200 4
  Re-loadables 200 4
Roman Candles 300 6
Homemade/Altered 100 2
Public Display 100 1
Unspecified 1,000 18

Source:  NEISS, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission/EPHA2002 Fireworks Annual Report: Fireworks-Related Deaths, Emergency Department Treated Injuries, and Enforcement Activities During 2002. Based on 169 reported emergency department visits between June 21, 2002 and July 1, 2002. Subtotals include categories listed directly below them. Totals may not add due to rounding. Estimates rounded to nearest 100 injuries.

The Cost of fireworks-related injury
The estimated annual cost of fireworks-related injuries is $100 million.3
   Fireworks-related fires have caused at least $15 to $20 million in property loss each year in the past decade. 4

What prevention strategies should be enacted?  
There are both Federal and state laws to prohibit the public's access to fireworks.  Federal law classifies them as hazardous substances. Under the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, Federal law has banned some large very dangerous fireworks, including re-loadable shells, cherry bombs, and  large firecrackers that contain 2 grains of powder.  The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection  tries to see that illegal fireworks are not shipped over the border but enforcement is difficult. In 2002, the Bureau of Customs and Border Patrol along with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, tested 375 fireworks shipments and found that 30% were out of compliance.5 

Seven states (AZ, DE, GA, MA, NJ, NY, and RI) have banned the sale of fireworks and the number of fireworks-related injuries seen by emergency departments in these states has declined.
See United States showing  type of state laws:  Map 
See United State Laws by State: 
 State Laws
See the NFPA's Model Fireworks Law.

Fireworks can turn a happy celebration into a potentially traumatic experience for both children and adults. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that fireworks be ignited only by professionals.  

The Trauma Foundation believes that state laws banning the sale of fireworks are sensible; they work.  Such laws can reduce the health costs related to these injuries and, more importantly, help prevent needless injuries and deaths .

 

References & Resources
1. 
 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.  Spotlight on Injuries from Fireworks. http://www.cdc.gov./ncipc/duip/spotlite/firework_spot.htm
2. 
MMWR weekly  1992. 41:451-4 
3. 
Marion County, IN, 1986-1991.MMWR weekly 6/23/00 49(24):545-6. (cost estimates are for US)
4.  NFPA Online http://www.nfpa.org/Research/nfpafactsheets/fireworks/fireworks.asp
5.  2002 Fireworks Annual Report CPSC.  http://www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/2002fwreport.pdf.  p 17.

Resources: