Health and Safety Leaders Urge the Public to Celebrate Independence Day Safely

 An Estimated 1,500 Fireworks Injuries Were to the Eyes in 2019 

COLUMBUS, OH (July 1, 2020) – The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition, the Franklin County Dog Shelter, the Central Ohio Fire Prevention Association, and the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics joined forces in the Shelter’s back yard today to educate Ohioans about the dangers of backyard fireworks.

Ohioans are urged NOT to use backyard fireworks because of the high fire danger and the risk of personal injury – specifically to young children – and the potential penalty for breaking Ohio’s fireworks law.

According to the 2019 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Fireworks Annual Report released last week, an estimated 10,000 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries. An estimated 7,300 fireworks-related injuries, or 73 percent of people treated, occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July Holiday.

“Prevent Blindness supports a total BAN on consumer discharge of backyard fireworks, including sparklers,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness. “The Fourth of July can still be fun without backyard fireworks or sparklers. Not only will you avoid a tragic visit to the emergency room yourself, you will also respect the time, effort and PPE resources available for patients affected by COVID-19 and other health needs,” added Williams.

Injuries to children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of the estimated firework-related injuries. This specific population also represented the highest estimated rate of emergency department treated fireworks injuries. The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 30 percent); legs (an estimated 23 percent); eyes (an estimated 15 percent or 1,500 eye injuries); head, face, and ears (an estimated 16 percent); trunk (an estimated 6 percent); and arms (an estimated 10 percent).

Sarah Denny, MD, Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and co-chair of the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “Many parents believe the myth that these products can be used safely or that smaller fireworks such as bottle rockets and sparklers are fun and safe. However, bottle rockets cause almost 60% of firework-related eye injuries and are the most common cause of fireworks-related structure fires. Sparklers burn at more than 10000F, which can result in an instant skin burn or easily ignite clothing. Over half of sparkler-related injuries were among children younger than 5 years.”

There are three types of fireworks in Ohio, all of which are hazardous: Trick and novelty items such as sparklers and snakes that can be legally sold and used by anyone; exhibitor fireworks which require a license to sell, purchase and use; and consumer class fireworks such as bottle rockets, fountains and roman candles, which require a license to sell. Consumer fireworks can be purchased by anyone over the age of 18, but must be removed from the state within a certain timeframe and cannot be legally discharged in Ohio.

“The Central Ohio Fire Prevention Association encourages all Ohioans to attend only professional, public fireworks displays. These displays are hosted by local municipalities and licensed exhibitors,” said Lt. Tim Jensen of the Liberty Township Fire Department and President of the Central Ohio Fire Prevention Association. “Besides being safer and legal, professional fireworks displays are better than any exhibit that could be produced with consumer fireworks.”

Even during a time in which many professional shows are being cancelled or postponed, it is important that people are not tempted to risk the dangers of backyard fireworks.

Eric Rathburn, of Columbus, knows the importance of avoiding backyard fireworks displays. He was injured by a firework misfire during a pre-July 4th party in 2009. Like many victims of fireworks injuries, Rathburn was an innocent bystander. The firework flew through the crowd, hitting his glasses and knocking him backwards (in a lawn chair) to the ground. The force broke the lens in his right eye, cutting his eye and causing permanent damage.

“My glasses had flown off of me as I hit the ground. It felt like someone had sucker punched me in the eye as I was falling. After that I did not see anything,” said Rathburn. “I no longer watch any fireworks. I tell everyone I know that they should stay away from backyard fireworks and current Ohio laws are there to protect our safety.”

Fireworks Safety Facts:

.In 2019, an estimated 10,000 people were treated in emergency departments for firework-related injuries.

.There were 12 non-occupational fireworks-related deaths in 2019.

.7,300 of the injuries (73 percent) occurred during a one-month period around the Fourth of July Holiday.

.An estimated 19,500 fires started by fireworks were reported to local fire departments in the US during 2018. These fires caused five civilian deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage.

.The National Fire Protection Agency states that almost half of the reported fires on the Fourth of July were started by fireworks. http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fire-causes/fireworks

.The size of the fireworks product is no indication of the amount of the explosive material inside it.

.The major causes of injuries are due to delayed or early fireworks explosions, errant flight paths of rockets, debris from aerial fireworks, and mishandling of sparklers.

.Sparklers (900), firecrackers (800), and reloadable shells (200) accounted for the most injuries during the one-month period around the Fourth of July Holiday.

.The parts of the body most often injured were hands and fingers (an estimated 30 percent); legs (an estimated 23 percent); eyes (an estimated 15 percent or 1,500 eye injuries); head, face, and ears (an estimated 16 percent); trunk (an estimated 6 percent); and arms (an estimated 10 percent).

.Sparklers, often given to young children, burn at 1200 degrees or even hotter—hot enough to melt copper.

.14 percent of injuries were to children under the age of five, with sparklers accounting for more than 50 percent of the estimated injuries for that age group.

.Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for approximately 36 percent of the total injuries in 2019. More than half of the estimated emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries were to individuals younger than 20 years of age.

.Children 0 to 4 years of age had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated, fireworks-related injuries (5.3 injuries per 100,000 people). Older teens, 15 to 19 years of age, had the second highest estimated rate (4.4 injuries per 100,000 people).

.Of the fireworks-related injuries sustained, 66 percent were to males, and 34 percent were to females.

Prevent Blindness has these tips to help prevent fireworks-related injuries:

.Do not purchase, use or store fireworks of any type.

.Be aware that even sparklers are dangerous and cause nearly half of fireworks injuries in children five years old and younger last year.

Prevent Blindness has these tips to help prevent fireworks-related injuries:

.Protect yourself, your family and your friends by avoiding fireworks.

.Attend only authorized public fireworks displays conducted by licensed operators, but be aware that even professional displays can be dangerous

.Support policies that ban the importation, general sale and indiscriminate usage of fireworks by children and adults

Prevent Blindness offers alternative ideas to celebrate the holiday safely:

.Decorate 4th of July treats using white frosting, blueberries and raspberries or strawberries.

.Make paper rockets by using paper towel rolls, paint or markers, streamers and child-safe glue. Make pinwheels or wind socks with an Independence Day theme.

.Create a patriotic wreath, pasting red, white and blue stars in a circle. Hang it from a door or window.

.Paint flowerpots in red, white and blue and plant new seeds or festive flowers.

.Decorate bicycles, scooters and wagons in red, white, and blue. Have a family parade.

.Hang decorative string lights and have a dance party with patriotic music.

.Design and decorate t-shirts and hats using glow in the dark paints. Add puffy paints and glitter to make them sparkle.

.After the sun goes down, wrap flashlights in colored cellophane to provide fun shades of light.

.Purchase non-toxic glow-sticks, ropes and jewelry that can safely light the night for kids.

.Organize a classic car, kiddie or pet parade on your block where viewing is done from a safe social distance in each household’s front yard.

The Ohio Eye Care Coalition offers the following guidance in responding to eye injuries:

.Do not delay medical attention, even for seemingly mild injuries. “Mild” injuries can worsen and end in vision loss or even blindness that might not have occurred had a doctor provided treatment early on.

.Do not rub the eye nor attempt to rinse out the eye.

.Avoid giving aspirin or ibuprofen to try to reduce the pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs thin the blood and might increase bleeding. Acetaminophen is the over-the-counter drug of choice.

.Do not apply ointment or any medication. It is probably not sterile. In addition, ointments make the eye area slippery, which could slow the doctor’s examination at a time when every second counts.

Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition (OFSC) Coalition of 50 statewide and regional organizations established in 1998 to educate the public about the dangers of consumer use of fireworks.

Ohio Department of Commerce

A list of frequently asked questions on fireworks is available in the pressroom at: https://www.com.ohio.gov/documents/FireworksinOhio.pdf

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Annual Report is available in full at:

https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/2019-Fireworks-Annual-Report.pdf

Prevent Blindness Free Fireworks Safety Fact Sheets:

https://preventblindness.org/prevent-eye-injuries-from-fireworks/