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news News Thursday, June 25, 2020 Thursday, June 25, 2020 7:59 AM - Thursday, June 25, 2020 7:59 AM

There are no 'safe' fireworks

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston warns the public of the dangers of personal use of fireworks

There are no 'safe' fireworks

On the 4th of July, friends and families throughout the country traditionally gather for cookouts and flock to fireworks displays to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. This year is like no other, and the way we celebrate this summer holiday will look very different. Across the country, professional fireworks shows have been postponed or canceled in an effort to limit large gatherings and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, there is an alarming trend this year of amateurs setting off fireworks themselves from backyards and parks, at great risk to the public.

The possession and use of all fireworks by private citizens is illegal in Massachusetts. Despite this, the Office of the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal reports that in the past decade (2010-2019), 33% of individuals treated at Massachusetts emergency rooms for severe burn injuries from fireworks were children age 14 or younger. An additional 22% were young people aged 15-24. These statistics are repeated around the country and are even higher in states without Massachusetts’ strict firework legislation. The State Fire Marshal’s office recently issued this public service announcement to warn the public of these serious dangers.

It can be easy to lose sight of what those numbers represent. At the Boston Shriners Hospital, we see the faces behind the statistics. Those numbers represent terrified children, frantic parents, and guilt-ridden family members or friends who purchased the fireworks. We see children who are struggling through months of painful rehabilitative therapy and those wondering if they will lose the use of a hand. We do not see statistics. We see kids whose childhoods are punctuated by an avoidable injury. Sadly, the trajectory of a child’s potential can be drastically changed with a disfiguring or disabling injury.

There are no “safe” fireworks. Most people do not realize that even basic sparklers can burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The extreme temperature of even this simplest firework can lead to deep boring contact burns when touched or stepped on, extensive burns when clothing or hair ignites, and eye injuries when little hot flecks fly off the tip into the unprotected eye. As parents, we go to great lengths to protect our children from dangers by using car seats, requiring bicycle helmets and educating on gun safety. Fireworks safety should be a basic component of child safety parenting.

With a lack of professional fireworks displays to enjoy this year, it may be tempting to create your own celebration. Please do not do this. There are safe alternatives to help you celebrate the holiday. Decorate your yard with fairy lights and red, white and blue balloons, and hand out glow sticks to the kids. Get creative and fill mason jars with glow-in-the-dark stars to light up your patio. Silly string, bubbles, flags and ribbon sticks can add to the fun as you honor our country’s independence while keeping your loved ones safe.