Sparklers are the leading cause of fireworks-related injuries, safety agency says

PHOTO: Debra Orellana, Erik Orellana, 6, and Vanessa Orellana, of Portland, light sparklers as they wait to watch the fireworks at the Fourth of July celebration on the Eastern Promenade. PlayBrianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
WATCH Fireworks safety demonstration for July 4th

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, the Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to remind consumers of the risks involved in setting off fireworks.

At a Wednesday news conference, CPSC acting chairman Ann Marie Buerkle said an estimated 12,900 people suffered fireworks-related injuries last year, with 67 percent of those injuries occurring during the month surrounding the holiday. Moreover, sparklers were the number one cause of the injuries, accounting for 14 percent of cases.

The CPSC says sparklers are more harmful than they seem. The CPSC website reads: “Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.” If consumers are not careful, the CPSC said, sparklers can also catch on clothing, resulting in burns.

“Sparklers are often viewed as harmless but let’s be clear, they can be deadly if not used properly,” Buerkle said. “They are actually the most often cause of any injuries that we see firework-related.”

PHOTO: Mannequins are used to demonstrate the dangers of fireworks in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissions 2017 Fireworks Demonstration video.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Mannequins are used to demonstrate the dangers of fireworks in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's 2017 Fireworks Demonstration video.

The CPSC used a dramatic first-person example to remind consumers that injuries are possible even if fireworks are purchased legally.

In 2015, Michael Spencer celebrated July 4th in Montana with his girlfriend and friends. What seemed like an innocent act of lighting off a firework, cost Spencer several fingers.

“We had purchased at a roadside firework stand, just your garden variety mortar shell,” Spencer said at the CPSC news conference. “I loaded the mortar into the tube and I held the tube above my head. I listened to fuse burn down and I heard a very loud bang and my wrists started to hurt. [...] I thought maybe it was the kickback from the fireworks.”

PHOTO: Firework victim Michael Spencer shares his story at the CPSC firework safety demonstration event, June 27, 2018, in Washington.CPSC
Firework victim Michael Spencer shares his story at the CPSC firework safety demonstration event, June 27, 2018, in Washington.

At that moment, Spencer said, he heard his friends scream and saw blood gushing from his hand. He was airlifted to a hospital in Seattle where he would undergo 14 surgeries.

Spencer says even though his life has changed, he felt he had also changed the lives of the people around him.

“People had to take months of work to take care of me because I wasn’t able to dress myself, I wasn’t able to feed myself, I wasn’t able to work [...],” Spencer said. “Fireworks not only affect the victim but they affect the victim’s support structure around them.”

The agency also held its annual safety demonstration on the National Mall Wednesday to showcase the dangers if fireworks aren't handled properly, showing how they can destroy mannequins and objects such as watermelons.

“CPSC works year round to help prevent deaths and injuries from fireworks,” Buerkle said in a statement. “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.”

For more information on firework safety precautions, view the CPC’s full fact sheet here.

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