Thanks to a new law passed by the state legislature this past October, aerial fireworks are now legal in Pennsylvania for the first time in almost 80 years. Benjamin Mikek says raising tax revenue “as part of a budget balancing scheme” was the impetus for the new law:
Novelties that do not leave the ground, like sparklers and spinners, long have been allowed in Pennsylvania.
The new law allows residents to launch devices classified as “consumer fireworks” by the Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. These include Roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers and some types of reloadable aerial shell launchers.
Display fireworks, which contain more than 130 grams of explosives, and large aerial shells remain illegal outside licensed displays. The law also prohibits the use of fireworks by people who are intoxicated or those under 18, and specifies that they may not be used near occupied buildings or vehicles.
Shoppers seem to be stocking up for some big holiday displays.
Legislators apparently weren’t swayed by these statistics from the National Fire Protection Association demonstrating the human and material carnage that takes place in the United States each year around the July 4th holiday:
— Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.
— In 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for fireworks related injuries; 54% of those injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the estimated 2017 injuries.
Legislators didn’t listen to pediatricians, either. The AAP has been vocal in its opposition to the public sale of consumer fireworks for many years:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to urge families NOT to buy fireworks for their own or their children’s use, as thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured each year while using consumer fireworks.
Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks — devastating burns, other injuries, fires and even death. The AAP is part of the Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, a group of health and safety organizations that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and to only enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.
Dr. Henry Bernstein at the Harvard Medical School took notice:
Children should never be allowed to use fireworks!
All fireworks are dangerous—even sparklers—which cause the majority of fireworks-related injuries to children under the age of 5. Sparklers burn at very high temperatures (up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit), sending out sparks that can easily set clothes on fire and cause permanent eye damage.
Because the risk of injuries when using fireworks is so high, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports a nationwide ban on the private use of any and all fireworks. Instead, families should attend public fireworks displays, which are much less dangerous.
Will consumers heed the warnings from the NFPA, the AAP, and the Harvard Medical School and keep kids safe from injury? These tips from the Fireworks Information Center of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) might help:
— Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
— 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.
— Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
— 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.
— Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
— Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
— Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
— 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.
— Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
The PediaBlog wishes everyone a happy and safe Independence Day celebration!