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Avoid turning fireworks from a joyful celebration into a painful memory

Posted Sunday, July 5, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - The American traditions of parades, cookouts, and fireworks help us celebrate the summer season, especially our nation's birthday on the Fourth of July. However, fireworks can turn a joyful celebration into a painful memory when children and adults are injured while using fireworks. Although legal consumer fireworks that comply with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations can be relatively safe, all fireworks are hazardous and can cause injury.

Fireworks are classified as hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Some fireworks, such as illegal firecracker type devices (M-80's, quarter sticks) and professional display fireworks, should never be used or handled by consumers due to serious injuries and deaths that can and do occur.

The following are examples of injuries from legal and illegal fireworks:

In Wisconsin, a group of males ranging in age from 17 to 35 brought a 50 gallon metal barrel to the edge of a river along with a sparkler bomb. One man put the firework into the sand on the riverbank, and lit it. A 17 and a 19 year-old male pushed the barrel over the top of the firework. The firework then exploded resulting in massive trauma to both men. The 17 year-old victim died at the scene and the 19 year-old died later in a hospital emergency room.

After attending a party, a 45 year old male lit a large round firecracker in his truck, intending to throw it out the window. The lit firecracker hit the side of the window and fell on the floor of the truck, where it exploded. The victim was admitted to the hospital for surgery on a fractured pelvis.

Some friends of an 18 year old woman were launching bottle rockets. One bottle rocket went sideways instead of up, striking her in the eye. Following treatment at the emergency department, the victim was transported to an eye hospital. The victim is unsure if her vision will completely recover.

To help prevent incidents like these, the federal government, under the Federal Hazardous Sub-stances Act, prohibits the sale of the most danger-ous types of fireworks to consumers. These banned fireworks include large reloadable mortar shells, cherry bombs, aerial bombs, M-80 salutes and larger firecrackers containing more than two grains of powder. Also banned are mail-order kits de¬signed to build these fireworks

In a regulation that went into effect December 6, 1976, the CPSC lowered the permissible charge in firecrackers to no more than 50 milligrams of powder. In addition, these amended regulations provide performance specifications for fireworks other than firecrackers intended for consumer use, including a requirement that fuses burn at least 3 seconds, but no longer than 9 seconds. All fireworks must carry a warning label describing necessary safety precautions and instructions for safe use.

The Commission has issued a performance requirement to reduce the risk of potentially dangerous tip-over of large multiple tube mine and shell devices. Tip-over of these devices has resulted in two fatalities.

CPSC estimates that in 2008 about 7,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks. More than half the injuries were burns and most of the injuries involved the hands, eyes, and legs. People ranging in age from 15 to 19 years old had the highest per capita injury rate among all age groups. Fireworks should be used only with extreme caution. Older children should be closely supervised, and younger children should not be allowed to play with fireworks, including sparklers.

Before using fireworks, make sure they are permitted in your state or local area. Many states and local governments prohibit or limit consumer fireworks, formerly known as class C fireworks, which are common fireworks, and firecrackers sold for consumer use. Consumer fireworks include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman Candles, rockets, sparklers, firecrackers with no more than 50 milligrams of powder and novelty items such as snakes, airplanes, ground spinners, helicopters, fountains, and party poppers.

To help consumers use fireworks more safely, the CPSC offers these recommendations:

 

  • Do not allow young children to play with fire-works under any circumstances. Sparklers, considered by many the ideal "safe" firework for the young, burn at very high temperatures and can easily ignite clothing. Children cannot understand the danger involved and cannot act appropriately in case of emergency.
  • Older children should only be permitted to use fireworks under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay.
  • Light fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from houses, dry leaves or grass and flammable materials.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that don't go off.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Douse and soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never ignite fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Store fireworks in a dry, cool place. Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Observe local laws.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
  • Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.

    PARENTS SHOULD SUPERVISE THE ORDERING AND USE OF MAIL-ORDER "MAKE YOUR OWN" FIREWORK KITS AND COMPONENTS. MAIL-ORDER KITS AND COMPONENTS DESIGNED TO BUILD BANNED FIREWORKS ARE PROHIBITED.


    The following is a summary of state regulations as of June 1, 2009.

    I. STATES THAT ALLOW SOME OR ALL TYPES OF CONSUMER FIREWORKS (formerly known as class C fireworks), APPROVED BY ENFORCING AUTHORITY, OR AS SPECIFIED IN LAW (39 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico):

    Alabama
    Alaska
    Arkansas
    California
    Colorado
    Connecticut
    Florida
    Georgia
    Hawaii
    Idaho
    Indiana
    Kansas
    Kentucky
    Louisiana
    Maryland
    Michigan
    Minnesota
    Mississippi
    Missouri
    Montana
    Nebraska
    New Hampshire
    New Mexico
    Nevada
    North Carolina
    North Dakota
    Oklahoma
    Oregon
    Pennsylvania
    South Carolina
    South Dakota
    Tennessee
    Texas
    Utah
    Virginia
    Washington
    West Virginia
    Wisconsin
    Wyoming

    (The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, in addition to the above states enforce the federal regulations and applicable state restrictions).

    II. STATES THAT ALLOW ONLY SPARKLERS AND/OR OTHER NOVELTIES (total of 5 states):

    Illinois
    Iowa
    Maine
    Ohio
    Vermont

    III. STATES THAT ALLOW ONLY NOVELTY FIREWORKS - (total of 1 state):

    Arizona

    IV. STATES THAT BAN ALL CONSUMER FIREWORKS (including those which are allowed by CPSC regulations) - (total of 5 states):

    Delaware
    Massachusetts
    New Jersey
    New York
    Rhode Island

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