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Fireworks Safety Press Event Remarks

June 28, 2013

Good morning everyone.  It’s great to see all of you.  

I am Inez Tenenbaum, Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  And, I am so pleased to be joined this morning by

-      Administrator Quarterman, of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration;

-      Assistant Director Marianos, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives;

-      and Assistant Commissioner Gina, of Customs and Border Protection. 

CPSC’s partnership with law enforcement, homeland security, and transportation is a leading example of one government, working together to protect the public.

We have collectively and successfully stopped the importation, transportation, and distribution of millions of dangerous fireworks.

We serve the public and we have put their safety first.

Great strides in enforcement and education have been made, but there is still more we can do. 

Too many Americans are being rushed to emergency rooms with burns, serious eye injuries, and terrible hand injuries.   

This is why our annual tradition of demonstrating the dangers of fireworks on the National Mall lives on.    

Today marks my fifth and final fireworks safety event on the National Mall.  It is my hope that the work we are doing here and now will lead to an announcement at next year’s press event that the trend in fireworks related injuries is declining.  

We can do this.  We, as Americans, can celebrate safely. 

This message is especially important because as more states loosen their fireworks laws, sales increase, and the potential for fireworks injuries increase.   

The statistics we are announcing today continue to be troubling.  In 2012, fireworks incidents sent 8,700 people to hospital emergency rooms.  This is down from 9,600 in 2011, but we can do better.

Tragically, there were six deaths in 2012 related to consumers using professional and homemade fireworks.

CPSC staff did a special study of fireworks incidents last year and found that 60% of all fireworks injuries occurred during the 30 days surrounding the 4th of July.

That means that each day during the month surrounding Independence Day there were 170 injuries.  Most of these injuries involved sparklers, firecrackers, and aerial devices.

So, our moment to prevent the majority of incidents is right now.

This is our moment to convince the public that holding a lit aerial shell can lead to the loss of fingers.

This is our moment to convince the public that igniting multiple tube devices can have unintended and unexpected consequences—such as the loss of one’s sight.

We are holding this event today, so that consumers can see what others have experienced and understand why it is so important to heed our warnings. 

We want everyone to celebrate safely this year, so that we do not have to retell stories next year of lost fingers, lost eye sight, and lost loved ones because of fireworks incidents.

If consumers use the legal fireworks safely and stay away from the illegal ones, we can make this the year that everyone “puts safety in play during the Fourth of July.”

“Putting safety in play” means keeping the sparklers, which can burn at 2000 degrees just like a blow torch, out of the hands of children, and creating a safety zone if you are going to ignite firecrackers or aerials.

Our advice is based on our data. 

Sparklers, reloadable shells, firecrackers and Roman candles were the cause of nearly 50% of all fireworks injuries in 2012.  And, each of the reported deaths was related to unexpected ignition of the device.

For families that plan to experience fireworks from the backyard, instead of the local fairground or school, our message is clear: never allow children to play with or be around them unsupervised, and adults should use caution when setting them off.

Even though we hold this event each and every year, there are still those who believe that making a sparkler bomb or mixing chemicals or aiming a bottle rocket at their friend, will do no harm.

Think again.

We’ll show the dangers of children using sparklers and we’ll show you a new demonstration involving bottle rockets.

We’ll also show the power of improperly using illegal fireworks, like M80s, M1000s, and professional fireworks.

The message on illegal and professional fireworks is crystal clear:

  • don’t make them,
  • don’t purchase them,
  • and don’t go near them.

I want the public to know that the federal government is working all year long to keep illegal fireworks out of the country, to catch those who bring them in, and to make sure consumer fireworks meet U.S. safety rules.

Now, consumers need to do their part.  Consumers need to know which fireworks are permissible to use in your state.  Even if the law allows you to use consumer fireworks, you still have a responsibility to use them safely.

As you light a firework, keep in mind your responsibility to keep yourself, your family, and those around you safe.

  • have a bucket of water or a garden hose on hand;
  • never relight or pick up a firework that didn’t go off;
  • light one at a time, on a flat, dry surface; and
  • never have your body over the device as you are lighting the fuse.

The Fourth of July is such a wonderful time of year. Whether you are heading out to watch the brilliant display of fireworks at a community event or celebrating in the backyard—put safety in play.

Thank you to the media for covering this event.

And, thank you to the National Park Service for their continuing support of our event, and for doing such a great job to enhance the look of the National Mall.