At a news conference on the National Mall today, CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton led the federal push to keep Americans safe as they prepare to celebrate America's independence. Stratton was joined by Peter Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice; Dennis McKenzie, Director of Seizures and Penalties for Customs and Border Patrol at the Department of Homeland Security; and Lewis Raden, Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The group urged consumers to follow safety guidelines and use only legal fireworks.
"Each of these agencies plays a crucial role in fireworks safety," said Stratton. "Together, we protect our nation's borders from hazardous imported fireworks; enforce fireworks regulations; and prosecute those dealers and distributors who manufacture and sell illegal explosives or divert professional fireworks to consumers."
Agency staff also issued a new report (pdf) today that cited an estimated 9,300 hospital emergency room visits for fireworks-related injuries in 2003. The number of injuries has decreased significantly from the highs of 1992 to 1994, when injuries averaged 12,500 a year. In explaining the reduction Stratton stated: "Rigorous enforcement, increased consumer awareness, and the work of reputable fireworks manufacturers have helped to reduce injuries from fireworks, but we still have a long way to go. The best thing parents can do to keep their families safe this 4th of July is to understand the basic safety tips for fireworks, including never trying to relight a "dud" and using only legal, consumer fireworks."
As part of its fireworks enforcement program, CPSC actively works with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation; U.S. Attorney's Offices across the country; and Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs & Border Protection to prevent millions of hazardous and illegal fireworks from reaching consumers. For example, since 1988, CPSC and the Bureau of Customs & Border Protection have seized or detained more than 450 million hazardous fireworks at docks across the country.
"Through undercover operations, online purchases, inspections, and incident investigations, CPSC and its partners are working to put a stop to illegal fireworks ending up in the hands of consumers. Whether these illegal fireworks are powerful, display fireworks intended for the professional fireworks user, or illegal fireworks devices made in someone's basement, CPSC is tracking down and shutting illegal roadside stands, warehouses and other illegal retail operations.
CPSC and ATF have worked closely to build criminal cases against manufacturers and distributors in Seattle, a retailer in Indiana, and an importer/dealer in Kansas. These joint investigations led to the seizure of thousands of M-80s, M-1000s, quarter sticks, and professional fireworks destined for consumers that could have caused serious injuries or deaths.
Highly explosive M-80s, cherry bombs, and quarter sticks have been banned under Federal law since 1966. Additionally, it is illegal to sell mail order kits that include the chemicals and components to make such large firecrackers. It is also illegal to sell professional, display fireworks to consumers.
CPSC provides recommends the following important fireworks safety tips:
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
- Adults should always supervise fireworks activities.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
- Never allow young children to ignite fireworks.
- 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 one item at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.
Demonstration of the explosive power of illegal fireworks
CPSC Chairman discusses efforts against illegal fireworks
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of
thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the
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mechanical hazard. CPSC's work to help ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters and household
chemicals -– contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.
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