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

NYS Health Department and NYS Consumer Protection Board Warn of Fireworks Dangers

June 30, 2005 -- Officials with the New York State Health Department (DOH) and the State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) today urged New Yorkers to stay away from illegal fireworks this Fourth of July and all other times of the year.

"Parents and children should be aware that fireworks are not only illegal, but they can severely injure or maim someone. Incidents involving firework injuries happen quickly, leaving no time to act once the product explodes -- by then it is too late and the victims are left with a lifelong disability," said New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H.. "They should only be used by professionals in the public displays that we all enjoy during Fourth of July festivities."

"Thanks to strong law enforcement and public education campaigns like this, we've generally seen a reduction in the number of injuries and deaths related to fireworks each year," said Teresa A. Santiago, Chairperson and Executive Director of the Consumer Protection Board. "That is the good news. The bad news is that injuries are still occurring and many of them are serious life-altering injuries."

In New York State last year, 20 people suffered moderate to severe burns from fireworks – up from 15 cases the year before. Burn injuries have generally declined each year from a high of 43 in 1995, reflecting a national trend. Of the 20 injuries in 2004, more than half of those injuries (55 percent) were to children under age 18 and 60 percent occurred in July; 30 percent on July 4th.

The number of hospitalizations related to fireworks injuries also increased slightly between 2002 and 2003 – from 17 in 2002 to 25 in 2003.

Other health and safety professionals are joining the State Health Department and the CPB in urging people to avoid fireworks, which are illegal in New York State.

"Fireworks-related injuries can occur to the eyes, head and face as a result of looking more closely at an ignited firework or when a misguided rocket hits a bystander, but the most frequent injuries involve the hands and fingers," said Dennis McKenna, M.D., an attending physician at Albany Medical Center's emergency department. "The loss of a finger or hand can have serious life-altering consequences -- particularly to a child who is still developing physically, mentally and socially."

"There is no safe way for consumers to use fireworks," said Dr. Jonathan Halpert, Director EMS Affairs for St. Peter's Hospital's Emergency Department in Albany. "Even when being careful, the lack of quality control in these products can vary greatly and lead to disastrous outcomes. An act that can take a second can create disability and disfigurement for a lifetime."