Science Weekly: Dangers of fireworks

(Tyler Brown / The Signpost)
Fireworks are fun, but there are dangers involved. (Tyler Brown / The Signpost)

It should come as no surprise that Americans love Independence Day festivities. It should also come as no surprise that the festivities include overeating, drinking and lighting things on fire.

Fireworks are a popular, if not essential, part of any Independence Day celebration. Fireworks also happen to contribute to a large amount of finger, hand and eye injuries.

According to data from a study at the Loyola University Medical Center, firework-related injuries accounted for 32 percent of all reported injuries during 2010 at the center. These injuries often lead to amputation of a finger, thumb or lower arm.

Dr. John Santaniello, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center, said that in addition to major injuries, fireworks can also produce minor injuries that can lead to a functional disability of the hand or eye.

Instead of an amputation, a person may be left with numb fingers that don’t function properly or anything from partial blindness to loss of sight in one or both eyes.

While it would be easy to assume that most injuries occur from the use of illegal fireworks, legal fireworks can be just as dangerous. Sparklers, which are popular among teens and older children, can burn up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Richard Campos / The Signpost)
Sparklers can burn up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. (Richard Campos / The Signpost)

Santaniello also warns that sparklers and other fireworks that are often advertised as “safer” can end up causing some of the most serious injuries that are treated by physicians around this time of year.

Besides the obvious physical harm that fireworks can produce, there are financial prices to pay. This study found a total cost of $1.4 million related to firework injuries. The study found the average among seven states in the U.S. for a stay in the hospital due to an amputation caused by fireworks totaled about $15,000.

Loyola University Medical Center also gathered data surrounding damage to people and property because of fireworks. Santaniello says that when an area is in a drought, the chances of a fire are much higher. The data reported about $36 million in property damage due to firework related fires in addition to civilian deaths and injuries.

Utah will also be celebrating Pioneer Day this month, which can be compared to a second Independence Day celebration, so it is important to be safe when using fireworks.

Loyola University also provided tips for those celebrating with fireworks. They include reading all directions on fireworks carefully, planning safe activities for children and keeping water and extinguishers nearby at all times.

Remember that if a fire or injury does occur to call 911 immediately.