Despite the best efforts and warnings of public officials, fireworks are responsible for severe burn injury, property loss, and death all around the world. Mere days before Christmas and the 2016 New Year celebrations, a devastating series of blasts ripped apart an open fireworks market in Tultapec, Mexico. The cause of the explosions remains unknown. It is the third such disaster to strike the town in a decade, a stark reminder of the hazard these devices represent.
This was not the only fireworks related disaster to strike in December 2016. A New Year’s Eve party in Thailand turned for the worse, as burning embers rained down on a crowd of revelers. The panic-filled stampede that followed would cause even more injury. Social media was immediately bombarded by photos from witnesses and victims, documenting burnt clothes and skin. One man would later die of his injuries.
Many of these tragic events result from unsafe handling or use of fireworks. Others are purely accidental, caused by the unpredictable nature of fireworks once the fuse is lit. Because of the potential for serious burn injury and death, fireworks have been legally controlled throughout U.S. for decades, though some states are more relaxed in their laws than others
Fireworks manufacturers continue to strive for longer lasting, more complex displays from their products. In turn, officials warn of the obvious increase in danger from these improved products. Usually, the word goes out before the 4th of July, where most public purchase and use of fireworks occurs. Over the years, the warnings have frequently gone out before New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Experts concerned over relaxed laws and the increase of burn injury events
While accidents can still happen even at professional fireworks displays, another major source of fireworks burn injury can come from illegal public use. Fireworks are set off in places where it is difficult for law enforcement to intervene, but they can even be set off in the middle of a neighborhood with little time for authorities to respond. The law in most of the U.S. restricts when and where the average citizen can purchase and use fireworks of all types. These laws were written with the intent of preventing needless injury and death.
However, these laws have actually been relaxed over the last ten years, and there is debate between medical professionals and the American Pyrotechnics Association on the effect this has had. The APA insists that relaxed laws have lead to a decline in fireworks-related injury “as the usage of fireworks have increased dramatically.”
A study by the University of Louisville disagrees with this conclusion. “We are seeing that by about two years after a law has weakened, the injury rate starts to noticeably increase,” said John Myers, lead author of the study.
Many victims of fireworks burn injury are children. These accidents are often caused by devices considered ‘safe and sane’, such as the popular sparkler. However, these incendiaries burn at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than enough to melt glass and start wood fires. Despite this, many still perceive these to be perfectly safe for children to use.