WASHINGTON D.C. -- As families and friends gather for the Fourth of July holiday at backyard barbeques, cookouts, and pool parties, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reminding consumers to celebrate safely when using fireworks.
At a fireworks safety press conference and demonstration Wednesday, on the National Mall, CPSC announced that eight fireworks-related deaths were reported in 2017, with victims ranging in age from four to 57.
There were a 13,000 fireworks-related, emergency department-treated injuries in 2017. Moreover, about 67 percent of the estimated annual fireworks-related, emergency department-treated injuries for 2017 occurred during the month surrounding the Fourth of July holiday, between June 16, 2017 and July 16, 2017.
During this one month period, sparklers were the number one cause of injuries, accounting for 14 percent of the estimated injuries.
"CPSC works year round to help prevent deaths and injuries from fireworks," said Ann Marie Buerkle, CPSC acting chairman. "Beyond CPSC's efforts, we want to make sure everyone takes simple safety steps to celebrate safely with their family and friends. We work with the fireworks industry, monitor incoming fireworks shipments at the ports and enforce federal fireworks safety regulations, so that all Americans have a safe Fourth of July."
In CPSC's new fireworks report, five of the eight deaths were related to reloadable aerial devices; one was associated with devices manufactured at home, one involved a firecracker, and one was related to sparklers. Seven victims died from direct impacts of fireworks, and one victim died in a house fire caused by misusing a firecracker.
Michael Spencer, a pilot from Bowling Green, Kentucky, knows all too well how dangerous fireworks can be if not used safely. While on vacation in 2015, he was injured by a shell-and-mortar style fireworks device and lost several fingers on both hands, undergoing more than 11 surgeries. Spencer shared his story during CPSC's fireworks event. He is now committed to making sure this tragedy does not happen to anyone else.
"Fireworks can be extremely dangerous, even if they are legal," said Spencer. "My advice would be to leave them to the professionals."
Consumers who decide to purchase consumer fireworks are urged to follow these safety steps:
- Make sure consumer fireworks are legal in your area, before buying or using them.
- Never use or make professional-grade fireworks.
- Do not buy or use fireworks that are packaged in brown paper; this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and are not for consumer use.
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
- Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person or occupied area.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.
For more information, visit the fireworks safety education center and check for fireworks recalls at CPSC.gov.
Reporting of fireworks-related deaths for 2017 is not complete, and the number of deaths in 2017 should be considered a minimum.