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Be Safe With Fireworks on July 4

Independence Day is upon us, and with it comes many opportunities for families to enjoy fireworks displays.  Professionally-produced shows are the safest approach, as they employ people who are trained in handling these dangerous devices.

Some people choose to enjoy pyrotechnics at home, which is when things can sometimes get out of hand.  Every year around this time, emergency departments at pediatric hospitals encounter children who have been injured, sometimes seriously, by fireworks that were designed for fun. Of the nearly 10,000 people who are injured by fireworks each year, more than 60 percent are children and teen-agers.


“I would say eye injuries are the most common and the most physically devastating thing we see with fireworks,” says Chris Green, a nurse and Trauma Coordinator at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.  “Children have lost eyes and others have suffered serious, permanent loss of some vision. It’s just really a shame to see.”


Most eye injuries involve bottle rockets because they are projectiles and are relatively inexpensive and easy to get.  Also, some bottle rocket accidents occur when a child leans over an unexploded rocket to see why it malfunctioned, only to have it launch into his or her face.


Even seemingly harmless fireworks can be quite dangerous.  For example, many parents will give young children a sparkler to twirl around because they don’t explode.  In truth, however, sparklers burn at up to 2,000 degrees – nearly 10 times hotter than boiling water.  That is hot enough to melt metal and plenty hot enough to do serious damage to skin or to set clothing on fire.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is one of many organizations that closely follow the incidence of fireworks injuries.  To safeguard your family, the CPSC recommends the following safety tips:   


Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Adults should always supervise fireworks activities.

Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.

Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.

Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.
Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves and flammable materials.

Some organizations advocate making all consumer fireworks illegal.  Others feel fireworks represent the freedom of choice and expression that make this country great.  Whatever your views, the most important consideration should be safety.


 “We strongly encourage parents to leave the fireworks to professionals,” Green says.  “If you’re absolutely going to use fireworks at home, it’s essential that they be used properly and with adult supervision.”


Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center  and is a Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. If you have a child health question for Dr. Wilmott, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon Web site at www.cardinalglennon.com

8/29/2007