June 7, 2007

fireworks are too inherently dangerous to be used by consumers

Fireworks: We are sticking to our position

National Fire Protection Association Journal®, July/August 2006

Every year NFPA warns the public about the dangers of consumer fireworks as the Fourth of July approaches. Our position has been unequivocal on fireworks since 1910. We believe that fireworks are too dangerous to be used by consumers. We believe that the proper way to enjoy fireworks displays and celebrate our nation’s birthday is to attend public fireworks displays where only trained personnel will be involved in their use.

The large number of injuries, deaths, and fires caused by consumer use of fireworks around the Fourth of July year in and year out proves the wisdom of our long held position. The most recent report issued by the NFPA Fire Analysis and Research Division shows how serious a problem this is.

In 2004, 9,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. The trend in fireworks-related injuries has been mostly up since 1996.

In 2003, an estimated 2,300 structure or vehicle fires were started by fireworks. These fires resulted in five deaths, 60 injuries, and $58 million dollars in property damage.

Between 1998 and 2002, eight people per year were killed in fires started by fireworks and six people per year were killed directly by fireworks. As in most years, the majority of those injured by fireworks in 2004 were under age 20. The highest injury rates were for children aged five to nine.

In 2004, 85 percent of emergency room fireworks injuries involved fireworks that Federal regulations permit consumers to use.

Even though the use of fireworks by consumers has been identified by a wide range of safety and public health groups that include NFPA, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Burn Association as a major public health concern, the problem is getting worse. In fact, now only five states ban the use of fireworks by individuals.

In response to requests from fire officials, NFPA has developed a new chapter of NFPA’s pyrotechnics code, NFPA 1124, Code for the Manufacture, Transportation, Storage, and Retail Sale of Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles , which provides minimum requirements for retail facilities that sell consumer fireworks. Our development of these requirements reflects the fact that in most parts of the country, retail sales are allowed but in no way shows a weakening resolve on the issue of whether they should be allowed. We believe strongly that fireworks are too inherently dangerous to be used by consumers and that retail sales of fireworks should be banned everywhere.

From time to time, when NFPA and other groups have warned the public about the dangers of fireworks before the Fourth of July, we have been accused of being “unpatriotic.” There is nothing patriotic about the deaths and serious injuries caused by fireworks every year. Anybody who has talked to a person seriously injured by fireworks at a Fourth of July celebration or listened to the physicians who have treated them, knows that there are far better ways for people to show their love of this country.

That is why we are sticking to our position and urge people to attend public displays of fireworks organized by professionals and not use them themselves. That is the only way we can prevent these needless deaths, injuries, and fires.

Fireworks Facts:

* In 2003, an estimated 2,300 reported structure or vehicle fires were started by fireworks. These fires resulted in 5 civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries, and $29 million in direct property damage.*
* In addition, 100 people were killed in a Rhode Island night club fire ignited by the indoor used of pyrotechnics in a small, crowded room with wall linings that promoted rapid flame spread. The facility had no sprinkler protection.
* In 2004, 9,600 people were treated at hospital emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries. Burns were the leading type of fireworks injury (62%). Contusions and lacerations were second (20%), and were equal in share to burns when the injury was to any part of the head or face, including the eye. Hands or fingers were the part of the body injured in 33% of the incidents. In 21% of the cases, the eye was involved; other parts of the face or head accounted for 21% of the injuries.
* Children aged 5-9 face the highest risk of fireworks injuries. In 2004, 55% of people injured by fireworks were under the age of 20, with 40% of the injuries incurred by those under age 15. The highest injury rate relative to population was for ages 5 to 9, with 2.2 times the risk for the entire population.
* Males accounted for three-fourths (75%) of fireworks injuries.
* From 1998 to 2002, eight people per year, on average, were killed in fires started by fireworks. Six people per year, on average, were killed directly by fireworks.
* In 2003, fires started by fireworks caused $58 million in direct property damage to structures.
* Based on the amount of time and quantities in use, fireworks pose a higher risk of fire death than any other consumer product. Although cigarettes are the leading cause of fire death, the risk that someone will die from fire when fireworks are being used is three times the corresponding risk when cigarettes are burning.
* On Independence Day in a typical year, fireworks cause more reported outdoor fires in the United States than all other causes of outdoor fire combined.

* Five states ban the use of fireworks by consumers (DE, MA, NJ, NY, and RI). The other 45 states and the District of Columbia permit some or all consumer fireworks.

Source: National Fire Protection Association

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