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Backyard fireworks can lead to blindness, other dangers

• Jun 18, 2018 at 3:00 PM

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), estimated that injuries from fireworks sent 11,100 Americans to the emergency room in 2016 with 68 percent occurring around the month of the Fourth of July holiday.

Nearly 50 percent of injuries were to bystanders and 31 percent to children under 15 years of age. The CPSC also reported four non-occupational fireworks-related deaths.

The CPSC states that burns from fireworks are the most common injury to all parts of the body, except the eyes, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eyes occurred more frequently. Last year 1,000 fireworks injuries were to the eye and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately one third of eye injuries from fireworks result in permanent blindness.

Fireworks laws vary from state to state and sometimes, within different counties.

In Ohio, it is not legal to discharge consumer fireworks including firecrackers, missiles, bottle rockets and fountains.

More and more states are going the route of legalizing consumer discharge of backyard fireworks with dire consequences. Study results from Iowa, a state that just experienced its first summer of legal consumer fireworks use after a decades-long ban, show injuries due to backyard fireworks increased by 163 percent over the previous three-year average. In addition, 67 percent of Iowans were in favor of consumer fireworks before the ban was lifted and only 47 percent were in favor after.

A 2016 study, “Effect of Fireworks Laws on Pediatric Fireworks-Related Burn Injuries,” published in the Journal of Burn Care & Research, concluded that the relaxing of fireworks laws in the United States has had a dramatic effect on the severity of the related injuries to children, resulting in more inpatient admissions and longer length of stay in the hospital.

Officials with the Prevent Blindness organization believe that there is no safe way to use fireworks and supports the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except those used in authorized public displays by competent licensed operators. Prevent Blindness facilitates the Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition and Ohioans Against Fireworks, whose member organizations educate the public on the dangers of consumer fireworks and endorse public policies to help protect adults and children from needless injuries from fireworks.

In addition to the many healthcare and safety groups that oppose fireworks legalization, other opponents are animal advocates that report that dog shelters are overrun around the 4th of July with dogs that have been startled by fireworks discharges and run off. Farmers similarly express concerns as fireworks can startle cattle and other livestock or cause damage to crops. Veterans suffering from PTSD endure symptoms and stress brought on by fireworks discharge.

“The Fourth of July can still be fun without backyard fireworks or sparklers,” said Sherry Williams, the Ohio affiliate president and CEO. “By attending only fireworks shows run by licensed professionals, and being vigilant, we can celebrate our nation’s birthday with family and friends — not in the emergency room.”

For more information on the dangers of fireworks, call Prevent Blindness at 800-301-2020 or visit preventblindness.org/prevent-eye-injuries-fireworks.

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