Release date: June 7, 1976
Release number: 76-036

Release Details

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a final order affirming its earlier decision lowering the permissible explosive charge in firecrackers. The decision also establishes performance standards and labeling requirements for other fireworks devices sold or distributed for consumer use.

The Commission voted to allow its March 4, 1976, decision permitting the sale of firecrackers containing a maximum of 50 milligrams of powder to stand as its final decision. Present Federal regulations allow sale of firecrackers of up to 130 milligrams of powder. The 50-milligram limitation would only permit the sale of the small firecrackers commonly known as ladyfingers. The decision also provides for performance specifications for common fireworks devices including a requirement that fuses burn at least three seconds but no longer than six seconds.

This decision will have no effect on existing state bans on firecrackers currently in effect in thirty-two states, and generally has no effect on fireworks used for organized public displays.

The current decision was rendered after parties had been given an opportunity to comment on the Commission's March 4, 1976, tentative decision, which stemmed from a regulatory proceeding begun in 1973. The regulation was issued because of numerous injuries resulting from the use of firecrackers and fireworks devices. The initially proposed regulation would have totally banned all firecrackers. Objections to the proposed regulation were raised by the fireworks industry and the State of Hawaii which, on behalf of its residents of Chinese descent, claimed that firecrackers are used in religious ceremonies which are Constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.

Extensive hearings involving some 25 parties including industry, consumer groups, Commission staffers and the State of Hawaii, followed this action.

During the 1974 Fourth of July season, an estimated 3,300 fireworks- related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms. More than 60 percent of these injuries were related to firecrackers, although few verified injuries for smaller firecrackers such as ladyfingers had been reported.

The Commission rejected a total ban on firecrackers because of the probability that such action would increase illegal trafficking and boot- legging of larger, more dangerous firecrackers. It further determined that a possible religious exemption for Americans of Chinese descent could not be feasibly administered and could result in widespread unlawful distribution.

This action will become effective 180 days after the publication of the final order, The Commission said that because of the complex legal procedures under which the regulation was issued and the required lengthy hearings, the order could not have been issued in time for the current Fourth of July season. The Commission's earlier decision noted that a great number of manufacturers were already in substantial compliance with the requirements.

The Commission had also urged the public during the forthcoming Bicentennial celebration to carefully select fireworks to be used and to provide close supervision to children using the devices to prevent injuries.

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