According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, nearly a billion dollars was spent on fireworks in the United States in 2012. Two-thirds of that amount came from the sale of consumer fireworks — that is, people who buy fireworks from retailers for their personal use.
Privately-owned fireworks provide a lot of entertainment for those who use them properly, but they also have the potential for serious harm. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 200 people go to emergency rooms for treatment of fireworks-related injuries each day in the month surrounding the Independence Day holiday. While most of these injuries are not life-threatening, they can be avoided altogether by safety-conscious users.
Anyone who uses fireworks must keep in mind that he (or she — one-third of the injuries are to females) is dealing with an explosive device. Nearly half of all fireworks-related injuries are to the hands and fingers, so when you light a firecracker, set it down, light the fuse and then move away quickly. If it doesn’t go off, don’t try to relight it; dowse the dud with water and move on. Also, don’t make the mistake of assuming that some fireworks, like sparklers, are safe for children because they don’t explode. Sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly hot enough to melt aluminum, and can cause third-degree burns.
The most cost-effective way to enjoy fireworks is to let someone else set them off. For a fraction of what you would spend at your roadside stand, you can take the family to the local park to see the public display, and have enough left over for ice cream afterwards. But don’t be afraid to light up your personal stash of whistlers and bottle rockets — provided, of course, that they’re legal in your area. Just remember what your mother always told you — be careful. And check your homeowner’s insurance policy to make sure you have enough coverage — just in case.