COLUMBUS — Every year, injuries from consumer fireworks send thousands to the emergency room. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated in its most recent annual report that there were an estimated 10,500 injuries treated in emergency rooms in the United States in 2014, with the majority of those around the Fourth of July holiday.
According to the report, children younger than 15 years of age accounted for approximately 35 percent of the estimated injuries. And of the total overall injuries, 19 percent, or over 2,085, were to the eyes. 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.
Between 2006 and 2012, the overall estimated number of children injured by fireworks increased nationwide, while state laws related to the sale of fireworks to minors were relaxed, according to a presentation at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in May 2016.
Study results showed that the burn-related injuries were suffered by an estimated 90,257 pediatric patients nationwide during the study period. The study also showed that fireworks injuries increased among younger children and hospital admissions grew from 28.9% to 50% of those injured and the length of stay in the hospital increased from 3.12 days to 7.35 days.
Fires are a problem with backyard fireworks as well. Just on May 31st, a fire in Akron, Ohio started by children playing with sparklers left a family of 7 homeless. All their belongings were lost and they had nowhere to go.
Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital-Columbus and an expert on the damage that consumer fireworks can have on the body. Not only has he authored several published studies on fireworks-related injuries, he has treated many of them as well.
“Unfortunately, this was just one of the many painful and serious injuries to children that I’ve seen related to fireworks over the years,” said Dr. Smith. “Our studies show that parental supervision is not enough to prevent consumer fireworks injuries to children – in fact, children who are simply bystanders and not even handling the fireworks are often injured. The words that I hear when parents bring their child crying in pain to the emergency department after a firework injury are always the same: ‘Doctor, I can’t believe that this happened to my child. I was standing right there, but it happened so fast that I could not do anything in time to stop it from happening’. These are good parents who simply believed the myth that these products could be used safely. Do not make that mistake with your family.”
Dr. Smith will be participating on behalf of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance along with the State Fire Marshal, Prevent Blindness and the Ohio Eye Care Coalition in presenting information about the dangers of backyard fireworks at the Annual Fireworks Safety Press Conference. The event will be held Friday, July 1, 2016 from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. at the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Ohio Fire Academy.
As a charitable public health education organization, Prevent Blindness continues to support the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except for authorized public displays by competent licensed operators. The group believes such bans are the only effective means of eliminating the social and economic impact of fireworks-related trauma and damage.
Prevent Blindness offers alternatives to celebrate the holiday safely:
• Purchase non-toxic glow-sticks, ropes and jewelry that can safely light the night for kids.
• Have children design and decorate their own t-shirts and hats using glow in the dark paints. Add puffy paints and glitter to make them sparkle.
• Use hypoallergenic face paint or make-up to make designs on your child’s face. Adults should apply the face paint and remove it with cold cream or eye make-up remover instead of soap. Follow product guidelines about applying product directly around the eyes.
• Paint flower pots with red, white and blue paint and glitter. Then plant a seed.
• Make pinwheels or wind socks with an Independence Day theme.
• After the sun goes down, wrap flashlights in colored cellophane to provide fun shades of light.
• Create your own noisemakers by banging wooden spoons on pots and pans. Search your house for horns, whistles and bells and other items to create a marching band.
• Make your own firecracker sounds by popping bubble wrap.
• Using yarn, craft sticks, paint and construction paper, families can make the United States flag.
• Make 4th of July rockets by using paper towel rolls, paint, streamers and paper cement.
• Let kids create in the kitchen by making fun desserts using blueberries, strawberries and whipping cream for star-spangled treats.
For more information on the dangers of fireworks visit www.pbohio.org.