Even sparklers aren't so safe, the San Francisco-based American Academy of Ophthalmology wants you to know, now that the Fourth of July is upon us.
Of the 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year, 21 percent are eye injuries and more than half of the victims are young children or teenagers the organization says. The Consumer Product Safety Commission last year said there are 200 injuries a day in the months leading up to the holiday.
“Many Americans get caught up in the excitement of the Fourth of July, and forget that fireworks are also dangerous explosives,” said Monica L. Monica, M.D., an ophthalmologist and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology in a news release.
At one time, it was common to buy fireworks sets from roadside stands and set off fountain-style fireworks and give the little ones sparklers to light the night. Now, only Gilroy and Watsonville permit the sale of so-called "safe and sane" fireworks.
A look at the statistics the ophthamology academy cites can be sobering.
One in every six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness, a press release. Even sparklers are dangerous the opthamology academy says. Sparklers typically burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and cause 27 percent of all fireworks injuries, including third-degree burns.
The ophthalmology academy said small children need to be supervised even at professional fireworks displays, which are the safest option.
The academy described these anecdotes from real cases:
- A 6-year-old child’s eye was severely injured after he lit an M-80 firework that he found in his home. He called 911 (mp3 audio) and underwent an immediate cornea transplant and lens replacement, and required several additional eye surgeries.
- A 12-year-old boy forgot to unwrap the fuse of a fountain firework, making the fuse too short. It exploded almost immediately and blew up in his face, seriously injuring his eye.
- After a man lit smoke bombs that created colored smoke, his 4-year-old son leaned in to get a closer look. Tar from the smoke bomb wick shot into the boy’s eye, causing a corneal abrasion.
Bottle rockets cause some of the most serious eye injuries. An errant bottle rocket can injure bystanders and cause eye lid lacerations, corneal abrasions, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, and complete blindness.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission releases a video each year of the damage legal and illegal fireworks can do, including a clip of a young man who lost both arms while mixing chemicals for a Fourth of July explosive. "You can mix the chemicals five or six times and get away with it," the young man, identified as Jason said. "It just takes one time and when it goes off, it can really severely damage you, it can change your life."
The academy recommend these tips:
- Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
- View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
- Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
- Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
- If you find unexploded fireworks, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.