Ophthalmologists at Emory Eye Center and across the nation are reminding those who will participate in July 4th fireworks displays put on by professionals to do just that--leave the fireworks to the professionals.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries are seen in emergency rooms each year. Of these, nearly half are injuries to the head, nearly 30 percent of these injuries are to the eyes and one-fourth result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
The typical victim is a male teenager, at home, unsupervised, with a group of friends. Three-fourths of all eye injuries caused by consumer fireworks are to boys between the ages of 13 and 15. The most dangerous type of firework is the bottle rocket, which flies erratically, causing bystander injuries.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says that although illegal fireworks, bottle rockets and Roman candles account for the majority of injuries, seemingly harmless sparklers are also dangerous. For children under the age of five, sparklers - which can burn at nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit - account for one-third of all fireworks injuries.
"This heat can damage not only the skin of the face, but also the cornea and ocular surface, resulting in potentially blinding scarring," says J. Bradley Randleman, MD, cornea specialist at Emory Eye Center.
The AAO urges observance of the following safety tips:
* Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
* View fireworks from a safe distance - at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
* Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
* Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
* Adhere to directives given by event ushers or public safety personnel.
* If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police departments.
"We cannot stress enough that fireworks should be left to the professionals, and that handling fireworks at home is an invitation to an accident. Take the family and go see an exciting display of fireworks-where the safety of family members will not be an issue," says Dr. Randleman.