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Fireworks and Eye Injuries: A Dangerous Mix

Fireworks may be advertised like toys, and you may think you know how to handle them safely, but the danger to you and your loved ones is real. Fireworks can cause severe eye injuries, including chemical and thermal burns, corneal abrasions and retinal detachment — all of which can permanently affect vision.

According to the most recent Fireworks Injury Report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks injuries in the United States caused nearly 10,500 injuries requiring treatment in emergency rooms. The report also showed that nearly 1,300 eye injuries related to fireworks were treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2014, more than double the 600 reported in 2012.

Those injured by fireworks are not necessarily handling the explosives themselves. In fact, nearly half of people injured by fireworks are bystanders. Children are frequent victims: 35 percent who sustained a fireworks injury are age 15 and under.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the leading professional organization of American ophthalmologists, advises that the best way to avoid a potentially blinding fireworks injury is by attending a professional public fireworks show rather than purchasing fireworks for home use.

For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:
• Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
• Do not touch unexploded fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.

For those who decide to purchase consumer fireworks because they live in states where they are legal, the Academy recommends the following safety tips to prevent eye injuries:
• Never let young children play with fireworks of any type, even sparklers.
• People who handle fireworks should always wear protective eyewear that meets the parameters set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
• Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.

July 3, 2017