The Dangers of Fireworks

Dangers of Fireworks

Large, professional displays of fireworks are beautiful and fun to watch; however, they can be dangerous if not handled properly or in a safe manner. Learn more about the dangers of fireworks and the risks involved so you can be safe for the holiday.

Some Facts About Fireworks

  • In 2021, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,500 people for fireworks related injuries. There were an estimated 1,500 emergency department-treated injuries associated with firecrackers and 1,100 with sparklers.
  • An estimated 32% of the emergency department-treated injuries were burns.
  • Young adults, ages 20 to 24, had the highest estimated rate of emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries. Children younger than 15 accounted for almost one-quarter of the estimated 2021 injuries.

Tips for Safer Use of Fireworks

  • Firework safety fireworks safe manner safe for the holiday displays of fireworks professional displaysNever allow children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light fireworks one at a time then move back quickly.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never use fireworks while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Source: CPSC

Injuries from Fireworks

Many fireworks injuries involve the hands, head, eyes, arms and legs.

Hands tend to be the most injured body part since many fireworks are typically held. Fireworks can result not just in severe burns, but when they explode while in the hand, they can tear the hand apart or cause severe damage to the muscles, impairing future use. One or more fingers can be lost, too.

  • Almost one-third of the fireworks injuries in 2021 were to hands or fingers.
  • 21% to the head, face, and ears
  • 15% to the legs and an estimated 8% to the arms
  • 14% to the eyes
  • 10% to the trunk and other areas

Other types of injuries include:

  • Severe burns
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of vision
  • Fractures
  • Dismemberment
  • Accidental Death

Dangers of Fireworks

Fireworks dangers of fireworks dangerous not handled properly risks sparklersMisuse of fireworks. Most injuries caused by fireworks are the result of misuse, for instance, lighting the fireworks improperly, lighting them too close to others or lighting them while holding them in your hand.

Improper use can injure not just the person handling the fireworks, but also bystanders. Fireworks, such as bottle rockets, can injure onlookers by taking unpredictable paths.

Failed to explode. Another potential danger is a firework that has been ignited and failed to explode. These should be handled carefully because they could still be active and explode.

Danger of sparklers. Sparklers are used a lot by young children because we assume they are safer; however, they can be more dangerous than you realize. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals and the sparks can catch clothes on fire or cause burns to the skin, especially sparks falling on feet.

Malfunction. While it doesn’t happen as often, fireworks can malfunction due to a manufacturing or design defect.

  • A manufacturing defect might cause a firework to explode too soon, before a person has the chance to get a safe distance away.
  • Defective fuses might light the powders in a way not intended by the manufacturer.

The best way to enjoy fireworks on 4th of July (or any time) is by watching a public display, and letting trained professionals handle the fireworks under controlled settings and regulations.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published June 22, 2017. It was reviewed on June 27, 2023, updated for content and accuracy and re-published on June 29, 2023.

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