'An Emergency Room is no Place to Spend The Fourth of July'

Emergency Room Physicians, NYS Consumer Protection Board and NYS Health Department Warn of Fireworks Dangers

The New York State Chapter of the American College of Emergency Room Physicians today joined the New York State Consumer Protection Board and the New York State Department of Health in warning children and parents about the dangers of handling firecrackers, sparklers and other fireworks.

"I remember a young man -- about 16 years old -- who was holding a roman candle when it exploded in his hand," recalled an emergency room physician from Cortland. "It disintegrated his thumb, index and middle fingers. We transplanted his great toe to his hand and spent another 12-plus hours reconstructing his hand for him."

An emergency room doctor in Syracuse recalled the case of a four-year-old girl who severely burned her hand when she reached to touch the lit end of a sparkler.

"There is no such thing as a "safe" firework. Even sparklers, which are often given to small children, can reach 1,000 degrees and may ignite clothing," said Dr. Vincent P. Verdile, President of the New York Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

"Sparklers and other fireworks have been used for years during the Fourth of July holiday, but that tradition doesn't change the fact that fireworks are illegal in New York and that children are injured every year from exploding and hot-burning fireworks," said May M. Chao, Chairperson and Executive Director for the New York State Consumer Protection Board. "An emergency room is no place to spend the Fourth of July."

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. said the good news is that the number of injuries caused by fireworks continues to decline. Hospitalizations in New York State have dropped from 113 cases in 1996 to 18 in 1999.

"Parents and children are getting the message: that illegal fireworks can injure and maim," said Commissioner Novello. "Fireworks are best left in the hands of professionals and the public displays that are part of every Fourth of July."

Revised: July 2002