With Independence Day approaching, Massachusetts state officials are reminding residents to leave fireworks to the professionals. Emergency rooms in the state have treated about 45 patients over the past decade for severe fireworks-related burns, according to a press release by the Executive Office for Public Safety and Security.
“Even though fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts, unfortunately every 4th of July, we usually see at least a few fireworks-related injuries,” said Dr. Paul Biddinger, director of operations for emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s important to remember that some things that seem really harmless, like sparklers, can actually be quite dangerous.”
State law prohibits possession and use of all fireworks by private citizens. It is also illegal to transport legally obtained fireworks from elsewhere into Massachusetts.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association , Delaware, New Jersey, and New York are the only other states that ban all consumer fireworks. This class of products includes firecrackers and sparklers, which can burn at around 1,800 degrees at their tips, according to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services. Flying sparks from novelty devices can ignite clothing and dried leaves.
“There’s no doubt that Massachusetts is clearly in the minority, but the statistics back up our position from a public safety and public health standpoint,” said state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. The rate of fireworks-related emergency room visits in Massachusetts is three to five times below the national average, he said.
US hospital emergency departments treated about 9,600 fireworks-related injuries in 2011, according to a June report by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most injuries occurred in the month surrounding July 4, with sparklers accounting for nearly 18 percent and firecrackers accounting for about 13 percent. During that period, about one-quarter of fireworks-related injuries involved children below the age of 15.
Children may lack the judgment or reflexes to escape harm from exploding objects, said Biddinger. “Firecrackers that seem like they make only a small pop make much more of an explosion than people realize,” he said, “and they do have the possibility to severely damage hands, fingers, eyes, and other parts of the body.”
For residents interested in watching professional fireworks from a safe distance, the 39th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular will take place on July 4 along the Esplanade.