THE ROBINSON REPORT #1: Celebrating Safety – Fireworks, Fun and the Fourth!

Welcome to my new blog!

Two years ago, I was honored to be sworn in as a Commissioner at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC has just launched Commissioners’ blogs and I am delighted to celebrate this anniversary with my first blog post!

In this virtual age of social media, digital conversations and Twitter chats, I am hoping to create a space here on my blog, THE ROBINSON REPORT (TRR), to discuss those consumer product safety issues that are timely and critically important to the CPSC’s mission—protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the over 15,000 different consumer product lines under our jurisdiction. This is a huge responsibility for CPSC— a small independent agency with approximately 550 employees and a budget of less than $125 million. It is staggering to know that consumer product related injuries, deaths, and property losses cost over $1 trillion a year in this country alone! This is serious business.

So, today, I thought I would begin my blogging career with a BOOM and discuss fireworks.

Since our country’s first Fourth of July celebration in 1777, fireworks have been used as a symbolic display of independence and national pride. The fireworks celebrations surrounding this Independence Day will certainly be a continuation of this wonderful tradition, yet it is important to recognize that there are also serious risks and hazards associated with fireworks use.

Fireworks injury statistics infographic

Scary Statistics

In 2014 alone, fireworks were responsible for an estimated 10,500 injuries and eleven deaths, the vast majority of which occurred during the month surrounding the Fourth of July. Between June 20 and July 20, an estimated 230 people per day went to emergency departments with a fireworks-related injury. Children younger than 15 accounted for about 35 percent of the 2014 injuries, and nearly half of the injuries were to individuals under 20. Children 5 to 9 years of age had the highest estimated rate of fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency departments. The data regarding these injuries are clear: children are at a statistically higher risk of injury from fireworks than any other age group.

For a great visual on injuries, check out the latest CPSC’s infographic, and for the most recent CPSC Injury Report on Fireworks, click here.

CPSC & Fireworks

As a Commissioner at the CPSC, I have made it a personal goal to work with consumers and manufacturers in an attempt to ensure that all fireworks celebrations may be enjoyed in a safe and responsible manner. I recently had the opportunity to go to Liuyang, China, which is the global epicenter of fireworks production, in an effort to coordinate with manufacturers to ensure that the fireworks that reach American consumers are as safe as possible.

Through improved testing methods and industry standards, the CPSC is working to make sure that the fireworks imported into the United States are both affordable and safe. While the CPSC will continue to work with fireworks manufacturers and industry associations, it is equally as important for consumers to understand the risks associated with fireworks and adjust their celebrations accordingly. Last week, the CPSC held is annual “Fireworks on the Mall” event in Washington, D.C. Chairman Kaye was there with many of our technical experts demonstrating just how dangerous fireworks can be.

Celebrate Safely!

Acknowledging the dangers associated with firework use is an important first step in preventing injuries, however parents and other consumers should take certain preventative and precautionary measures to further reduce the number of injuries. Because children account for such a high percentage of these injuries, parents should always actively supervise any activity involving children and fireworks. For others, it is essential to remember important safety tips.

Fireworks Poster

CPSC’s Fireworks poster with statistics from 2014.

First and foremost, consumers should always follow the warnings and instructions listed on the products themselves. When lighting fireworks, it is important to only light one firework at a time and to back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting. Additionally, fireworks should never be pointed at another person or re-lit if they do not fully ignite. The CPSC also urges everyone to always to have a water source nearby when lighting fireworks. By taking these precautionary steps, more people will be able to enjoy this year’s fireworks celebrations injury free. I encourage everyone to visit the CPSC’s OnSafety blog and the CPSC’s Fireworks Information Center to see the top ways to keep safe when celebrating with fireworks during this holiday season.  Here is the CPSC’s Fireworks Poster:

WARNING: Sparklers & Commercial Fireworks

While all fireworks can cause serious injuries, parents should be especially aware of the dangers associated with the use of sparklers. Sparklers, which are often perceived as more appropriate for children and less dangerous than projectile fireworks, accounted for about 19 percent of all fireworks injuries in 2014. Sparklers can burn at temperatures up to 2000 degrees, which is as hot as a blowtorch, and can easily burn the user’s hands, arms, or face. Be careful!

Also, I know how tempting it might be to buy illegal or commercial fireworks on the side of the road—DON’T! Those products were not designed for consumers and they are very dangerous. I visited the CPSC’s lab and saw a comparison test of the fuses of both commercial and consumer fireworks—there is no comparison. Even if the commercial fuses look much longer, the ignition and light time is dramatically less than the consumer product’s shorter fuse. You should not be setting commercial fireworks off in your backyards or at the lake. Don’t do it!

BEWARE: Federal, State and Local Laws Apply!

Fireworks are classified as hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). CPSC is responsible for ensuring that consumer fireworks meet the safety requirements in the FHSA. However, each state and other localities (counties, police departments, fire departments, etc.) regulate the purchase and sale of consumer fireworks in their own jurisdictions. Today, there are only three states that ban consumer fireworks altogether: Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Unfortunately, some state and local jurisdictions have relaxed consumer firework regulations – we are closely watching these trends to see if they may impact injury rates.

For more information about differing states’ and local regulations and additional fireworks safety, please see the CPSC’s Firework Fact Sheet.

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Celebrations involving fireworks create wonderful lasting memories. I am from Detroit, Michigan, which is just across the Detroit River from Windsor, Ontario. The two cities combine their celebrations of Canada Day on July 1 and American Independence Day on July 4 for a spectacular fireworks show done from barges in the river. Some of my favorite fireworks memories are enjoying those fireworks with my husband and friends in our apartment in Detroit, Michigan, overlooking the Detroit River with a glass of wine and wonderful music. And we spent the Fourth at the family cottage on Lake Michigan where our family fireworks display took place by a beach fire. Make your own memories with fireworks this summer—but please remember to do so safely!

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