Fireworks sales will be blazing across the country from now through the Fourth of July. As retailers begin their promotions, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO), the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians (PACEP), and the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) join the American Academy of Ophthalmology in shining light on the explosive fact: fireworks injuries cause approximately 10,000 visits to the emergency room each year, according to the data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of these injuries, 1,300 are eye related, a staggering number that has doubled in recent years.
Fireworks injuries largely occur in the weeks before and after Fourth of July. To help prevent these injuries, PAO, PACEP, PAMED and the Academy are debunking four myths about consumer fireworks risks:
Small doesn't equal safe.
A common culprit of fireworks injuries is the kind often handed to small children - the classic sparkler. Many people mistakenly believe sparklers are harmless due to their size. However, they can reach temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt certain metals.
Even those tiny poppers or snappers can pose dangers. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety 2014 Fireworks report- 35 percent of all fireworks related injuries were to children under the age of 15.
Even though it looks like a dud, it may not act like one.
At age 16, Jameson Lamb was hit square in the eye with a Roman candle that he thought had been extinguished. Now 20, Lamb has gone through multiple surgeries including a corneal transplant and a stem cell transplant.
Just because you're not lighting or throwing it doesn't mean you're out of the firing line.
Each year individuals who are spectating personal fireworks displays are injured. Of the eight firework related deaths in 2014, 2 victims were not the users.
The Fourth can be complete without using consumer fireworks.
The Academy advises that the safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show.
"Across PA, every year around the 4th of July, I learn of at least one eye related injury due to fireworks" says David Armesto, MD, FACS, PAO's Secretary of Public Information. "Our eyes are naturally attracted to the dazzle of fireworks, and if people are not attentive and careful (especially children and their parents), someone is going to get hurt. This can lead to devastating and potentially blinding consequences. I've seen serious injuries from something as seemingly safe as hand held sparklers, to more dangerous ordinance such as bottle rockets (which are not available for general sale to PA residents but are often "smuggled" in). It's best to enjoy the celebration with fireworks from a safe distance. If you are going to use your own, please wear eye protection!"
"Enjoy the show from a safe distance," said emergency physician Merle Carter, MD, FACEP, PACEP President. "Everyone has 24/7 access to emergency care when they need it, but emergency physicians and other emergency healthcare providers encourage you to be cautious and do all you can to avoid unnecessary injury to your eyes, fingers, and other extremities as you celebrate on the Fourth."
If you experience a fireworks injury:
In addition to promoting safe fireworks practices, PAMED, PAO and PACEP are joining together in opposition of Senate Bill 1055, which greatly expands the retail sale of potentially dangerous fireworks throughout Pennsylvania. If this bill passes, it would legalize the sale and use of consumer fireworks in Pennsylvania, which in turn could increase the number of preventable injuries emergency rooms see each year around the 4th of July.
"Physicians in Pennsylvania will never stand by passively when someone is in harm's way," says Scott Shapiro MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "This is why we oppose SB 1055."