Fireworks Spark Safety Concerns Around July 4th Holiday

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The enjoyment of fireworks and their bright sparks is an age-old Fourth of July tradition, but experts at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC want to caution parents that children should not be permitted to play with fireworks, which can cause devastating, lifelong injuries.

Approximately 15,000 Americans are injured each year from fireworks during the month surrounding the July 4th holiday, with young people under age 20 accounting for nearly half of those, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fireworks can be associated with serious injuries such as serious burns, blindness, loss of fingers and permanent scarring.

"Each year we see a handful of children who come into Children's Hospital with injuries ranging from burns to loss of eyesight or fingers because they were playing with fireworks," said Barbara A. Gaines, MD, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children's. "It's terrible because these often are permanent and disfiguring injuries that could easily be prevented with parental supervision. Any firework, even a sparkler, can cause a child serious injuries and parents really need to make sure their children aren't using them at all, but especially unsupervised."

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A safe way to enjoy fireworks is to attend professional events where the fireworks are controlled by a designated staff and trained employees, according to Dr. Gaines. While viewing fireworks in professional areas, make sure you are a safe distance and within the designated barriers.

Though fireworks are illegal in Pennsylvania, it is not uncommon to find fireworks distributors in states where fireworks are sold legally. Sparklers however, are legal in Pennsylvania, and many parents mistakenly feel that they are safe for children. According to Canters for Disease Control and Prevention, sparklers are associated with more than half of all firework-related injuries for children under 5.

Children's offers these safety tips where fireworks are legal:

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