Fireworks-Related Injuries by the Numbers
Every year before the Fourth of July, doctors and firefighters warn about the dangers of fireworks. And every year, the number of fireworks injuries grows. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American Academy of Pediatrics want that to change.
In the past 15 years, fireworks-related injuries increased 25%, the CPSC states in a new report. At least nine people died in accidents involving fireworks, and 11,500 people made emergency room visits because of firework injuries last year, the CPSC’s office says.
In addition to bodily harm, property damage from fireworks is also a major problem. The National Fire Protection Association’s latest data says fireworks caused nearly 20,000 fires in 2018. Local fire departments reported nearly 2,000 of the fires were structure fires, 500 were vehicle fires, and 17,000 were outside and other places.
Understanding the data, and therefore the risk, can help you make smarter and safer decisions when using consumer fireworks.
What the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and States are Doing About Fireworks Injuries
The federal government has aggressive public health interventions in place to prevent fireworks injuries.
- Federal law bans M-80s, cherry bombs, and firecrackers with a charge of more than 130 milligrams of explosive powder.
- Federal agencies, including the CPSC’s Office of Compliance and Field Operations, police the sale of illegal fireworks.
- Taking fireworks across state lines is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison.
Although the nationwide ban includes many types of fireworks, most states allow the use of fireworks by individuals to celebrate the Fourth of July. You can see the types of fireworks your state allows on the American Pyrotechnics Association website. In some states, the sale of fireworks allowed includes everything from aerial devices to much larger multiple-tube devices. Other states permit only novelty items like sparklers, party poppers, and smoke devices.
That said, CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric strongly advises people to stay safe by going to public displays of fireworks instead of shooting them off at home.
Fireworks of all types and sizes can cause property damage, third degree burns, and eye injuries. Other parts of the body frequently injured include the face, hands, fingers, and ears. In addition, fireworks may worsen symptoms for people who suffer from traumatic brain injury.
Fireworks Injuries by Age, Gender, and Type
Young men are the demographic most likely to have fireworks injuries. Last year’s CPSC data shows men had 59% of fireworks-related injuries around the Fourth of July. No surprise there.
- Young adults ages 20 to 24 had the highest estimated rate of emergency department visits for fireworks injuries last year–5.1 injuries per 100,000 people.
- Young children from five to nine years of age had the second highest estimated rate of ER visits–4.5 per 100,000 kids.
When it comes to overall fireworks injuries, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found:
- Adults from 25 to 44 years old make up one-third of the total.
- Younger children up to age four had 14% of injuries, followed, in order, by teens, preteens, kids ages five to nine, and young adults.
The CPSC reports 8,500 people injured by fireworks went to the emergency room in the month around the Fourth of July in 2021. This is 74% of fireworks injuries for the entire year.
Sparklers sent 1,100 kids to the hospital. Fifteen hundred people went to the ER because of injuries caused by firecrackers.
Serious Burns, Broken Bones, and Other Major Injuries Caused by Fireworks
The most common injury from fireworks is a burn to the hands, fingers, or legs. According to the CPSC, burns accounted for 32% of severe injuries in the month surrounding July Fourth last year. Most burns were to the hands and fingers.
Serious burns cause blisters. In more extreme cases, the skin turns white and leathery. Burns may cause damage under the skin you cannot see, according to Healthgrades. Seek medical treatment for all but minor and major burns.
Cuts and bruises to a victim’s head, face, and ears were the second most common fireworks-related injury last year. The CPSC office’s data states 21% of fireworks injuries were to the head, face, and ears.
The blast of fireworks can damage facial tissue and even break bones in the face. Such injuries can occur throughout the body. The CPSC reports the percentage of injuries by other body types:
- Legs, 15%;
- Eyes, 14%;
- Arms 8%; and
- Trunk/other regions 10%.
Before using fireworks, know first aid and CPR. The HSI Adult First Aid | CPR AED training program prepares you to be the first line of help if someone gets hurt.
In brief, if someone in your group has open wounds:
- Put a clean cloth over the injury.
- Apply an ice pack.
- Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
How to Avoid Fireworks Injuries
The best way to avoid fireworks injuries is to not use consumer, or backyard, fireworks. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to take their children to professional displays instead.
If your family decides to continue shooting off your own fireworks, follow these safety tips from the American Pyrotechnic Safety & Education Foundation.
- Watch out for the sale of illegal consumer fireworks by buying from a licensed store, stand, or tent.
- Active users need to be clean and sober.
- Do not let young children use fireworks, even sparklers.
- After setting off fireworks, let them cool off for 20 minutes, then put them in a bucket of water.
- Spectators need to stay a safe distance from where you are setting off the fireworks.
- The best way to avoid property damage is to only use fireworks away from buildings on a level, fireproof surface.
- Wear safety glasses to prevent an eye injury.
- The safest way to deploy fireworks is to read and follow the directions on the label.
- To protect your family and friends from suffering serious injuries, don’t aim or throw fireworks at another person.
If you want a visual way to explain the dangers of fireworks to your family check out the HSI fireworks safety blog post. You’ll find a great visual there full of fireworks information and safety tips.
Have a great Fourth of July by being prepared and staying safe! Remember, if you need first aid and CPR/AED training, HSI is here for you.