The numbers are clear: Fireworks are dangerous and July 4 is an especially risky time for eye injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent annual fireworks injury report fireworks caused 12 deaths and 10,000 injuries in 2019. Three-quarters of the fireworks injuries treated in emergency rooms happened between mid-June and mid-July.
Fireworks may be advertised like toys around the Fourth of July. You may think you know how to handle them safely. But playing with fireworks can blind you or your loved ones, so leave fireworks to the professionals. All professionals and bystanders should wear eye protection that meets the criteria set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The most recent Consumer Product Safety Commission report found that 15% of fireworks injuries were eye injuries. In the most severe cases, fireworks can rupture the globe of the eye, cause chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment — all of which can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.
Children and young adults are frequent victims. Children age 15 and under accounted for 36% of the total injuries, according to the commission’s report. And half of the injuries requiring an emergency room visit were to people age 20 or younger.
Even sparklers can be dangerous, as they burn at more than 2,000 degrees Farenheit. Sparklers were responsible for 1,200 of the injuries in the latest report, and a sparkler mishap caused one of the fireworks deaths reported in 2017.
The people injured by fireworks aren’t necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, 65% of people injured by fireworks were bystanders, according to another study. The statistics don’t lie. Children and people not handling fireworks themselves are in as much danger as the people actually lighting fireworks.
Fireworks-related eye injuries can combine blunt force trauma, heat burns and chemical exposure. If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, it should be considered a medical emergency.
The best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional, public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use.
If you attend or live near a professional fireworks show:
For those who decide to purchase and use consumer fireworks in states where they are legal, follow these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Originally Posted: May 12, 201 by Dr. Steinemann & Mr. Gudgel, American Academy of Ophthalmology, CPSC, ANSI
Video by the American Academy of Ophthalmology