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Setting off dazzling displays of fireworks is a time-honored way to celebrate Independence Day, but it can quickly become dangerous — and even deadly — when safety guidelines are ignored.
About 73% of fireworks-related injuries treated in US hospital emergency rooms occurred around the one month including the Fourth of July holiday in 2022, according to a report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Around 10,200 people visited ER departments for these injuries in 2022, according to the CPSC report. That number is down from 2021, when about 15,600 people visited the emergency room for fireworks-related injuries.
There were at least 11 reported deaths linked to fireworks last year, which the commission reported was down from 15 deaths in 2021.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of many commercial fireworks shows in 2020, said Patty Davis, deputy director of communications and press secretary at the CPSC, speaking to CNN in 2021.
The canceled shows “may have spurred consumers to use fireworks on their own,” Davis hypothesized.
Consumer fireworks are safe when proper safety protocols are followed, she added.
It’s important to plan your fireworks activities ahead of time and have a sober adult in charge, said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
In 2020, 44% of the people who died from fireworks-related injuries had consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the incident, according to the CPSC.
When lighting fireworks, set them on a flat surface and quickly move away after they are lit, Davis said. Afterward, soak the fireworks with water.
“Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks,” she said. Instead, soak them in water per usual, Davis added.
Hands and fingers were the most injured body parts both years and accounted for 29% of fireworks injuries in 2022, according to the CPSC report.
Children should never handle fireworks, including sparklers, Davis said.
“Sparklers burn as hot as a blowtorch at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius), and that’s enough to burn some metals,” she said.
Sparkler injuries accounted for 600 fireworks-related emergency room visits in 2022, second only to firecrackers with 1,300 visits, according to the CPSC report.
It’s also courteous to notify your neighbors when you will be setting off fireworks, Heckman said.
“Let them know of your planned fireworks activities, especially families with young children or pets, or veterans who may suffer from PTSD as the noise from fireworks may be startling,” she said.
Americans should avoid purchasing illegal fireworks, such as fireworks sold by unauthorized sellers, and setting off commercial fireworks as consumers, Heckman said.
“The public should avoid any fireworks devices offered for sale in brown paper wrap devoid of warning labels and instructions for use,” she noted.
Fireworks laws can differ by the county or city in which they are being used or sold, so people need to research what the rules are in their particular area, Davis said.
In Ohio, for example, consumers can purchase fireworks but not set them off, Sorgi said.
Some cities are replacing fireworks shows this year with drone-led light shows in order to minimize fire danger. Fireworks had been banned altogether in some areas in 2021 due to the relentless drought in the western US.
The American Pyrotechnics Association has a state-by-state guide to regulations for consumers to reference, but people should still check with their local governments for the latest information.