Fireworks Pose Dangers to Your Eyes
Fireworks are big business in the United States. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimated consumers spent $755 million on fireworks in 2015, and according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks were involved in an estimated 10,500 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2014.
Nearly 400 people lose sight in one or both eyes due to fireworks injuries every year. Ophthalmologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Callahan Eye Hospital hope that number will decrease.
“I’ve seen too many injuries related to fireworks, and many of these occur in children and innocent bystanders, and result in permanent vision loss,” said Dr. Priscilla Fowler, assistant professor in the UAB department of ophthalmology.
Hospital officials strongly recommend that professional shows are the best way to enjoy fireworks.
“It’s better to just leave the fireworks alone and go to a show … and let the professionals do it,” said Dr. Jay McCollum, an ophthalmologist and director of emergency services at the hoospital. “That’s the safest thing.”
But a doctor’s recommendation will not be enough to stop everyone from using fireworks. Doctors at the hospital know they will be busy on Independence Day, and they are ready.
Fireworks laws in the DMV
Laws vary in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In some cases, they vary from county to county.
In the District, some fireworks are permitted to be stored, displayed and sold. Others are illegal, and individuals found in possession of, or using, illegal fireworks can face fines, penalties and/or arrest. In general, any fireworks or firecrackers that explode — such as cherry bombs, roman candles, or floral shells — are illegal. Retailers must secure a permit from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department and a business license from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in order to sell any legal fireworks in the District.
In Maryland, all fireworks are illegal in Montgomery County. You cannot possess or discharge any fireworks, including gold label sparklers. Snap-and-pop noise makers, snakes, and party poppers are the only exception to this law. In Prince George’s County, it is illegal for any person to manufacture, possess, store, offer for sale, sell, discharge, use, burn or explode any fireworks, except that an authorized display may be conducted by a licensed pyrotechnic professional. In Frederick County, only gold label sparklers, novelty items and ground-based sparklers are legal.
In the City of Alexandria, it is unlawful for any person to store, offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, use or explode any fireworks including sparklers within the city limits. In Arlington County, fireworks that are projectiles, explode, emit flames or sparks to a distance greater than 12 feet are prohibited. In Fairfax County, any firework that explodes, emits a flame or sparks higher than 12 feet, or performs as a projectile is prohibited and a permit is required for the sale of all fireworks. In Falls Church, all consumer fireworks are illegal, including firecrackers, torpedoes, skyrockets, Roman candles, sparklers or other similar devices along with other devices containing any explosive or flammable compound. In Loudoun County, permissible fireworks include sparklers, fountains, cones and snakes. In Prince William County, sparklers, fountains, Pharaoh’s serpents, caps for pistols and pinwheels, spinning jennies or other similar fireworks approved by the Fire Marshal are permissible.
Ophthalmologists say that, if you use fireworks, follow these safety procedures to avoid injury, burns or blindness:
- Always use adult supervision. Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never use bottle rockets.
- Read and follow all manufacturers’ warnings and instructions.
- Keep a source of water close by in case of fire or another mishap.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before using them.
- Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
- Never throw fireworks at another person.
- Shoot fireworks on a clean, flat surface away from the house or flammable materials.
What to do for a fireworks eye injury
If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, remember:
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Do not rub your eyes.
- Do not rinse your eyes.
- Do not apply pressure.
- Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
- Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Article by the Univerisity of Alabama at Birmingham