Each Fourth of July, thousands of people are injured from using consumer fireworks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries happen each year. Of these, nearly half are head-related injuries, with nearly 30 percent of these injuries to the eyes. One-fourth of fireworks eye injuries result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
June is Fireworks Eye Safety Awareness Month, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO) wants to remind consumers to leave fireworks to professionals. “Too many Fourth of July celebrations are ruined because a child has to be rushed to the emergency room after a fireworks accident,” said Kenneth Cheng, MD, PAO Immediate Past President and pediatric ophthalmologist. “Potentially blinding injuries can be avoided if families attend a professional public fireworks display instead of putting on a home fireworks display.”
Children are the most common victims of firework accidents, with those 15 years old or younger accounting for half of all fireworks eye injuries in the United States. For children under the age of five, seemingly innocent sparklers account for one-third of all fireworks injuries. Sparklers can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.
“Among the most serious injuries are direct trauma to the eye from bottle rockets,” according to Dr. Cheng. The rockets fly erratically, often injuring bystanders. Injuries from bottle rockets can include eyelid lacerations, corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage, rupture of the eyeball, eye muscle damage and complete blindness.
For a safe and healthy Independence Day celebration, the PAO urges observance of the following tips:
- Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
- View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
- Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
- Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
- Follow directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
- If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
- If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.
Find an Eye M.D. in your area by visiting www.paeyemds.org.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology has been working to preserve and protect vision and eye health for Pennsylvania’s citizens since 1943. With member physicians throughout the Commonwealth, the PAO strives to be the voice of ophthalmology; making efforts to ensure quality eye care on the legislative and regulatory fronts, while building and maintaining relationships with major insurance carriers within the state.