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Sparklers — yes, sparklers — are the most frequent cause of fireworks injuries

The relatively tame sparkler is the most common source of fireworks-related injuries.istock photo

Millions of Americans will watch a fireworks display — or perhaps launch some of their own — to mark the Fourth of July holiday.

The pyrotechnics can be dazzling, but they can also be dangerous, particularly at this time of year. Even the relatively tame sparkler has its risks; it’s the most common source of fireworks-related injuries.

About two-thirds of fireworks injuries happen each year in a one-month span surrounding July 4, statistics show, though injuries caused by public display fireworks are exceedingly rare. Most accidents happen with store-bought items detonated by amateurs.

On average, the US sees 7.4 fireworks-related deaths per calendar year, and another 10,000 injuries, over the past decade and a half, according to data and estimates tracked by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.


At least 11 people were killed by fireworks last year, according to the commission, including a 22-year-old Maine man who died on July 4 after igniting a firework on top of his head.

Last year, emergency rooms around the country treated an average of 267 fireworks-related injuries per day in the 30-day span between June 19 and July 19.

Massachusetts is one of only three states with a complete ban on consumer fireworks, but accidents and injuries still occur here.

Between 2006 and 2015, there were 775 major fire and explosion incidents involving illegal fireworks in Massachusetts, and 47 people were treated at emergency rooms statewide for severe burns from fireworks, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

The federal product safety agency says its data shows no discernible trend when it comes to the number of fireworks related injuries nationwide each year, but the statistics also shed light on some of the risk factors associated with pyrotechnic mishaps.

The majority of people who are injured are male and most are in their early 20s or younger. In fact, one in five people injured are 9 years old or younger.


The most common type of injuries are burns, and people most often injured their hands or head. Misusing fireworks accounts for a majority of injuries, but malfunctions account for a large share, too.

More than half of those injured were 24 years old or younger
Age ranges Percent of injuries
0 to 4 9%
5 to 9 12%
10 to 14 10%
15 to 19 13%
20 to 24 11%
25 to 44 34%
45 to 64 10%
65+ 1%
Sparklers accounted for the most injuries
Type Percent of injuries
All firecrackers 16%
—Small firecrackers 5%
—Illegal firecrackers 3%
—Unspecified firecrackers 8%
All rockets 9%
—Bottle rockets 6%
—Other rockets 3%
All other devices 44%
—Sparklers 22%
—Fountains 2%
—Novelties 4%
—Multiple Tube 3%
—Reloadable Shells 10%
—Roman Candles 5%
—Helicopters 0%
Homemade/Altered 1%
Public Display 3%
Pest Control Devices 0%
Unspecified 26%
Burns were the most common type of injury
Other diagnoses
Hands and head were most likely body regions to be injured
How people said they got injured
The data here is based on surveys of 171 people who were injured in the five-year period from 2011 through 2015.
How injured Percent
Misuse 52%
—Igniting fireworks too close to someone 11%
—Holding fireworks in hand 18%
—Setting fireworks improperly 5%
—Touching lit fireworks 1%
—Holding Lit fireworks too close to other fireworks 1%
—Dropping lit fireworks on other explosives 1%
—Lighting fireworks improperly 3%
—Dismantling fireworks 2%
—Being too close to lit fireworks 4%
—Playing with used fireworks 3%
—Igniting fireworks too close to a tree 1%
—Playing with lit fireworks 2%
—Mischief 1%
—Stacking fireworks on top of each other 1%
—Other misuse 1%
Malfunction 39%
—Errant flight path 13%
—Early or late ignition 8%
—Tip-over 6%
—Blowout 3%
—Debris 7%
—Other malfunction 1%
Other 9%
—Debris 6%
—Smoke 1%
—Ash 1%
—Unknown 1%
SOURCE: US Consumer Product Safety Commission

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele