Fourth of July celebrations are less than 2 weeks away and that means fireworks are selling furiously. Many cities ban fireworks within city limits but people sometimes ignore the ban or find a location where setting off fireworks is legal.

A special study conducted by CPSC staff found that 65 percent of all fireworks injuries in 2011 were sustained during the 30 days surrounding the Independence Day holiday. More than half of these injuries were the result of unexpected ignition of the device or consumers not using fireworks as intended. Fireworks injuries most often resulted in burns to the hands and head, including the eyes, face, and ears. According to the special study, sparklers, firecrackers, and aerial devices were associated with the most incidents.

It’s not only consumer grade fireworks that people like to play around with, sometimes they obtain professional grade, and that’s where things can get really dangerous. Last year, CPSC received reports of four consumers who were killed by either professional-grade or homemade firework devices, while an estimated 9,600 consumers were injured.

"For thousands of consumers, last year's 4th of July celebration ended with a visit to the emergency room," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "CPSC wants you to understand the risks with legal and illegal fireworks, in order to prevent an injury, or worse, during this holiday."

While the majority of fireworks injury reports involve emergency room treatment and release, CPSC is aware of more severe and fatal injuries that are associated with consumer use of professional-grade and homemade fireworks. Reports of faster-than-expected explosions and unpredictable flight paths of aerial devices have resulted in tragic consequences for some consumers.

In the four reported fireworks-related deaths, the victims were killed when the illegal devices exploded, causing severe trauma to the head and face, and resulting in decapitation in one incident. In other incidents involving professional-grade or homemade devices, the victims reportedly sustained severe burns and the loss of fingers.

While there is federal oversight of imported fireworks, poorly made devises with hazardous ingredients still get through.

CPSC offers these tips for consumers who decide to purchase legal fireworks are urged to take these safety steps:

  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks. Parents may not realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees-hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Always have an adult closely supervise fireworks activities if older children are allowed to handle devices.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

The hot, dry weather is also a consideration when using fireworks. In 2010, fireworks caused an estimated 15,500 reported fires, including 1,100 total structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 14,100 outside and other fires. Make sure that there’s not dry brush, leaves, or tall grass in the area. Have a hose nearby or a bucket of water. If possible, soak the area with water before using the fireworks. Avoid pointing mobile fireworks at houses or trees.

Our littlest ones are at the highest risk for injury. Children ages 5-14 have twice the risk of injury and often end up in the emergency room. If a child is injured by fireworks, immediately go to a doctor or hospital. If an eye injury occurs, don't allow your child to touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Also, don't flush the eye out with water or attempt to put any ointment on it. Instead, cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and immediately seek medical attention — your child's eyesight may depend on it. If it's a burn, remove clothing from the burned area and run cool, not cold, water over the burn (do not use ice). Call your doctor immediately.

Fireworks can be fun and are meant to be enjoyed, but you’ll enjoy them more if your family is safe.

The best place to watch fireworks is at a sponsored event. They are usually bigger, accompanied by music and the whole family can have a blast!

Sources: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml12/12203.html, http://www.nfpa.org, http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/outdoor/fireworks.html