News & Events

Area physicians warn of dangers of fireworks

July 3, 2013

By Shannon Harsh, The Review, Published July 3, 2013

Despite the risks -- both legal and physical -- some individuals will no doubt celebrate the Fourth of July by setting off consumer and novelty fireworks, but local emergency medicine physicians are warning them to think twice.

"All fireworks are incredibly dangerous. Even sparklers can cause pretty significant burns with the kids," said Dr. Rudd Bare, who works at both Alliance Community Hospital and Summa Akron Hospital. "I think the thing with fireworks is we think that the larger, more powerful fireworks are more dangerous, but in reality, the smaller, more accessible ones that kids often handle cause many more injuries.

"Don't let your guard down just because you think you bought something safe at the grocery store, because we certainly see a lot of injuries -- burns and ocular injuries -- with those."

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), about 8,700 people were treated in emergency rooms in 2012 for firework-related injuries -- more than half of which were burns. The CPSC reported the majority occurred around the Fourth of July.

Dr. Kurt Mueller, of the ACH emergency department, said the most common injuries he sees are burns to the hands that happen because people think they have more time before firecrackers explode than they actually do.

While most injuries to the hand are first- or second-degree burns, he said, noting the larger, more powerful fireworks can cause damage to the tissue of the hand and even tendon injuries.

"If you get into these really large ones, you can take off a finger," he added.

Bare has seen the damage fireworks can do while working at the larger Akron trauma center. "I can't think of a Fourth of July that I've worked that I haven't seen someone lose an eye, so I think that parents really have to take accountability for that," he said.

Bare said he sees significant eye trauma every Fourth of July. He recalled three years ago when in two hours he saw two complete globe ruptures, meaning the entire eye was destroyed. Both were direct hits from bottle rockets, one of which struck a neighbor who was barbecuing a yard away.

"It's important for people who aren't using fireworks, but are around neighbors that are using fireworks to also think about the risks," he warned. "A lot of the injuries I've seen to adults at the trauma center have been from neighbors setting off bottle rockets and other airborne fireworks."

Mueller cautioned that the danger of these types of fireworks is that they may shoot in unexpected directions. "With bottle rockets, potentially anybody within 100 yards could be hit, so you've got to have a clear area when you're shooting things off," he said.

Mueller warned that no one under age 18 should be handling fireworks. He said people should not shoot them when others are in the vicinity and cautioned that they should not be shot in a dry area, as it could cause a grass or forest fire.

The doctor added that fireworks are illegal in this area. Unlike neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where all consumer fireworks are allowed, Ohio is one of five states that have banned all but sparklers and novelty fireworks.

In Alliance, even sparklers and novelties, such as party poppers, snakes, glow worms and smoke bombs, are prohibited. Those caught possessing, selling or setting off fireworks in the city (without acquiring a fireworks display permit), a minor misdemeanor, could receive a $150 fine on a first offense or a 30-day jail sentence and $250 fines on subsequent offenses.

"My best advice is go somewhere and watch it from a safe distance and let other professionals handle it," Bare suggested. "This part of the state there are a ton of great fireworks displays, and it's great family time to watch from a far distance."

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