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Fireworks pose serious safety risks


June 13, 2013
SPRINGFIELD — Fireworks, which date back to as early as 200 B.C. in China, have long been used for a variety of celebratory reasons - from military victories to public gatherings to commemorate holidays like the Fourth of July and other special events.

But, when you're playing with fire, and in this case, explosive gunpowder, there are bound to be injuries. That's why fireworks are illegal in many states, including Massachusetts, serving as a reminder as the Fourth of July approaches to leave fireworks in the hands of properly-trained professionals.

"Those who illegally attempt to capture the excitement of Fourth of July community fireworks displays in their own backyard are risking serious injuries, especially to children," said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator, Safe Kids of Western Massachusetts, headquartered at Baystate Children's Hospital.

"Fireworks are extremely dangerous, especially in the hands of youngsters or even adults who are not professionally trained in their use. Fireworks involve explosions, accelerants and projectiles, and they can result in serious burns and other devastating injuries, lifelong disabilities, and even death. What is so upsetting is that all of this is completely preventable," Dr. Ronald Gross, chief, Trauma and Emergency Surgery Services at Baystate Medical Center added.

According to a study of fireworks conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2011 from June 17 to July 17, 65 percent of fireworks injuries in 2011 occurred during the month surrounding the Fourth of July. Also, 200 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the Fourth of July holiday.

Gross noted that traumatic amputation of the fingers or hands is a common result of a fireworks-related injury. Other injuries usually involve the eyes or head and can sometimes result in blinding or even death. More than half of fireworks-related injuries involve burns, which can be one of the most painful injuries a child can encounter.

If for any reason a fireworks accident occurs, seek medical attention immediately, regardless of the severity of the injury. Do not rub or rinse out the eyes which can cause further damage. Pressure should be applied to control bleeding, but should be avoided on the area around the eye. Do not use any kind of aspirin or ibuprofen, which can cause blood thinning and potentially increase any bleeding that is present. Using ointments and medications are not recommended, as they can make the area around the eye slippery and interfere with the doctor's examination.

"From purchase to ignition, know how you and your family can stay safe and which fireworks are allowed in your state if fireworks are part of your July 4th celebration," CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said. "Never assume that a fireworks device is safe based on its size and never allow young children to play with or light fireworks. By knowing the dangers of all types of fireworks, consumers can prevent tragedies."

Summers added, "Remember, fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts and the safest and only approach to enjoying their beauty is to attend legally sanctioned public events, which are bigger and brighter than any backyard display ever could be."

For more information on Baystate Medical Center, visit www.baystatehealth.org/bmc, and for more information on Baystate Children's Hospital, visit www.baystatehealth.org/bch.

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