CPSC Demonstrates Fireworks Hazards, Urges Consumers to Celebrate Legally and Safely on Independence Day

June 26, 2003
Release Number: 03-149

With Independence Day near and American patriotism high, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urges consumers to celebrate the occasion safely by not purchasing or using illegal fireworks and by adhering to safety guidelines if using legal ones.

At a press conference on the National Mall today, Chairman Hal Stratton demonstrated the explosive and destructive force of illegal fireworks. He also demonstrated the hazards young children risk when using legal fireworks and sparklers and the dangers consumers face when they use fireworks in an unsafe manner. "The consequences of fireworks misuse can be severe burns, loss of eyesight, amputation, and even death," Stratton said.

"Above all, never give fireworks, even sparklers, to young children," Stratton said. "Sparklers burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot enough to cause third degree burns."

Hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. treated about 8,800 people for fireworks-related injuries in 2002, according to a commission staff analysis. However, the number of injuries has decreased significantly from the highs of 1992 to 1994, when injuries averaged 12,500 a year. Stratton attributes the decrease to rigorous enforcement, more consumer awareness of the potential dangers fireworks pose, and the production of a higher quality product by reputable fireworks manufacturers.

Through undercover buys, online purchases, inspections and investigations, CPSC is tracking down and shutting down illegal roadside stands, warehouses and retail stores that sell professional grade explosives to consumers, and homes that serve as havens for the manufacture of dangerous fireworks devices.

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 the 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 400 million hazardous fireworks at docks across the country.

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-100s, quarter sticks, and professional fireworks marked for consumers that could have caused serious injuries or death.

Highly explosive M-80's, 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.

If you do decide to set fireworks off on your own, be sure to follow these important safety tips:

-Make sure your fireworks are legal in your area.

-Read and follow all warnings and instructions.

-A responsible adult should closely supervise all fireworks activities.

-Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

-Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.

-Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

-Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.

-Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.

-Never try to re-light fireworks that have not fully functioned.

-Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal or glass containers.

-Keep a bucket of water or a hose handy in case of a malfunction or fire.