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A Costly Reminder About Fireworks: It Can Happen to Anyone

The Fourth of July may be over, but the use of fireworks by people on vacation continues in the summer months. If you shrugged off warnings before the Fourth of July about the danger of fireworks and their potential to cause serious injury, you might be interested in a couple of post-holiday news items.

We refer, of course, to reports about two NFL stars who suffered disfiguring injuries in fireworks accidents over the holiday weekend: C.J. Wilson, a North Carolina native who plays with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Wilson, who is from Lincoln County and played at N.C. State University, lost the index and middle fingers on one hand, and Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated and suffered fractures to his right thumb.

These are two pro athletes, which means they have great reflexes and physical instincts and are strong and physically fit.

Do you still think you can’t get hurt playing with fireworks?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says in its 2015 annual report that it estimates that fireworks were involved in 10,500 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms during 2014. Of these, about 7,000 (or 67 percent) happened between June 20 and July 20.

Further, the CPSC knows of at least 11 people who died in 10 noncommercial fireworks accidents last year. Seven were killed by the direct impact of fireworks going off. Four died in house fires started by fireworks.

Nearly half of those treated in emergency rooms were younger than 20 years old; 35 percent were younger than 15, the CPSC says.

It’s not all about big explosive fireworks, either. The CPSC says an estimated 1,400 injuries treated in emergency department rooms were associated with sparklers, and 100 were connected with bottle rockets. Another 1,400 were associated with firecrackers.
Injuries occurred to people’s hands and fingers (an estimated 36 percent); head, face, and ears (an estimated 19 percent); eyes (an estimated 19 percent); legs (an estimated 10 percent); and arms (an estimated 5 percent).

Most injuries were burns (54 percent). Burns were 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, the CPSC says.

“Most victims recovered from their injuries or were expected to recover completely,” the report says. “However, several victims reported that their injuries might be long-term.”

Most injuries were associated with misuse or malfunctions of fireworks. Misuse included:

• Lighting fireworks in one’s hand
• Being too close to lit fireworks
• Setting off fireworks improperly
• Mischief
• Igniting fireworks too close to someone
• Dismantling fireworks.

Typical firework malfunctions included:

• Errant flight paths
• Tip-over incidents
• Early ignitions
• Blowouts.

Debris and smoke from fireworks were involved in some injuries as well.

Still not convinced? We suggest downloading the CPSC report and scrolling to page 37 for a table that describes 31 specific cases of amputations, thermal burns, lacerations and more caused by fireworks, and presents notes from conversations with people who were injured, many of who had weeks and months of recovery ahead of them.

Fireworks are dangerous. You don’t have to lose an NFL career, a finger or an eye to learn that.

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