Consumer Fireworks Found To Cause Preventable Injury To Children In U.S.

July 3, 2006

Conscientious parents would not knowingly hand their children dangerous explosive devices to play with and yet every Fourth of July thousands purchase firecrackers and sparklers for their kids. According to a study published in the July issue of Pediatrics and conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) in the Columbus Children’s Research Institute at Columbus Children’s Hospital, it was found that consumer fireworks cause an alarming number of serious preventable injuries among pediatric fireworks users and bystanders in the United States.

“Parents should be advised to take their children to safer public fireworks displays, rather than allowing consumer fireworks to be used by or near their children,” said CIRP Director Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, one of the study authors and a faculty member of The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Medicine. “Every type of legally available consumer firework has been associated with serious injury or death. A national ban of the sale and use of consumer fireworks, in accordance with the policy recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, should be implemented in order to reduce the burden of fireworks-related injuries among children.”

An estimated 85,800 pediatric (19 years and younger) fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1990 through 2003. During the 14-year time period covered by the research, children treated for fireworks-related injuries were an average age of 11 years, and about 80% were male.

“Children who were injured while playing with fireworks themselves accounted for approximately half of the injuries,” explained Rachel Witsaman, MPH, a study author and member of the CIRP staff when the study was conducted. “Even more concerning was that one-fourth of injuries occurred to bystanders. This means that a child is at risk of injury by simply being near where fireworks are being used.”

CIRP faculty member Dawn Comstock, PhD, who is also an OSU faculty member and the third author of this study, commented “It’s important to note that our study was limited to fireworks injuries treated in hospital emergency departments. The actual number is certainly higher when considering those who did not seek medical treatment or were cared for by other healthcare providers.”

The most common type of injury was burns (60.3%). Injuries were caused by firecrackers (29.6%), sparklers/novelty devices (20.5%), and aerial devices (17.6%), and the most commonly injured body sites were the eyeball (20.8%), face (20.0%) and hands (19.8%). Approximately 91.6% of all pediatric fireworks-related injuries were treated and released from hospital emergency departments, 5.3% were admitted, and 2.3% were transferred to another institution.

The national number of pediatric fireworks-related injuries was estimated by analyzing data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

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