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Beware of dud fireworks!

For many, enjoying the Fourth of July holiday means celebrating with a firework show at home.  

In Pennsylvania, adults are now legally permitted to purchase “Class C” consumer-grade fireworks, which includes favorites like firecrackers, Roman Candles and bottle rockets—fireworks that contain less than 50 milligrams of explosive material. 

“With ‘bigger’ fireworks now legal, this creates new safety concerns,” says Dr. Ronald Strony, an emergency medicine physician and co-chair of Emergency Medicine for Geisinger’s Medicine Institute. “There’s increased potential for getting hurt while trying to celebrate Independence Day.”

Pennsylvania law also states that fireworks must be discharged more than 150 feet from any occupied structure, and—surprise!—not by any person under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.  

With this firepower, it's important to practice safety precautions while enjoying the show.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that approximately 75% of all fireworks-related injuries annually take place on or near the Fourth of July. The Consumer Products Safety Commission reported over 11,000 hospital visits in 2016. Most injuries were a result of mishandling the devices or attempting to launch an illegal, commercial-grade explosive. 

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than 69% of the injuries were burns on the hands, head, face, legs, eyes and arms, with children under the age of 15 accounting for 31% of the injuries. 

“It’s common for folks to come into the emergency room during the Fourth of July because of burns or foreign objects in the eyes,” says Dr. Strony. “But these sorts of accidents can be easily avoided with the proper precautions.”

If you’re hoping to keep the party at home and away from the hospital this year, the Consumer Products Safety Commission offers tips to enjoy fireworks safely.

Here are 3:

1. Keep fireworks away from young children 
Even sparklers, a fun, family favorite, should be handled with care. The glittering sticks can reach up to 2,000 degrees, enough to light flammable clothing or cause severe burns. Only children over the age of 10 should handle sparklers, and still under close supervision.

“When handling any sort of fireworks, parents should also try to keep a bucket of water nearby,” explains Dr. Strony. “Sparklers stay hot even after the stick burns out, so they can burn hands or feet when left on the ground.”

2. Be careful when lighting, and let the duds lie
When lighting fireworks, never lean over the fuse or device. Instead, approach the firework from the side; this way you can light one at a time and back away quickly!

Never try to pick up or re-light a failed firework. There could be an issue with the device causing it to go off at any minute. 

“An unexpected launch could cause burns, and in some cases, an explosion could put extremities and limbs in danger,” says Dr. Strony. 

The best way to handle a dud firework is to spray it with a garden hose.

3. Be an educated consumer 
Pennsylvania has allotted a finite number of permits for approved fireworks sellers. You should avoid any seller that can’t produce this permit or has products you don’t recognize.

Fireworks in brown paper and without attractive, graphic packaging are often meant for commercial use and NOT legal for consumers. They also pack a considerable punch—leave those to the professionals. 

Next steps:

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