CPSC Seizes Illegal Fireworks in Wisconsin

August 17, 1998
Release Number: 98149

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that its investigators seized more than 11,000 illegal fireworks in Wisconsin. CPSC worked with the Milwaukee U.S. Attorney's office, the U.S. Marshal's Service and a local bomb squad in raiding a fireworks establishment in the town of Keshena, which is in Northeastern Wisconsin. Fireworks banned under federal law killed one person and severely injured at least two others in the area last month. Follow-up on the incidents led CPSC investigators to vendors in the area.

On July 14, after detonating an illegal firecracker in a mailbox, a 17-year old boy was killed from flying debris. On July 5, a 37-year old man lost several fingers after an illegal firecracker exploded in his hand. Another man also suffered a hand injury. Firecrackers involved in the injuries have been linked to the Keshena vendor. The death is still under investigation.

The seized fireworks include professional mortar shells and large firecrackers, known as M-80s, one-quarter sticks and one-eighth sticks, containing up to 150 times the legal limit of explosive powder. Some devices have the explosive force of one-quarter stick of TNT. A second vendor in the area has voluntarily agreed to turn over an additional 600 illegal fireworks, including M-80s and professional class roman candles.

Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, CPSC prohibits the sale of the most dangerous types of fireworks to consumers. The banned fireworks include large, reloadable tube devices, cherry bombs, aerial bombs and M-80 salutes. Large firecrackers containing more than 50 milligrams of explosive powder also are banned, as well as mail order kits designed to build these fireworks.

Improper use of fireworks or use of illegal fireworks can result in deaths, blindings, amputations and severe burns. In 1997, hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,300 fireworks-related injuries.

CPSC conducts fireworks surveillance and enforcement throughout the year. Each year, CPSC stops hundreds of shipments of hazardous fireworks before they reach the store shelves. Working with the U.S. Customs Service since 1988, CPSC has seized or detained more than 400 million hazardous fireworks at the docks.

CPSC is asking anyone with knowledge of illegal fireworks vendors or distributors to call their Special Investigations Unit at (800) 638-8095, extension 1515.

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