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Is it safe to set off fireworks with the kids?
Q: My husband wants to buy fireworks to set off with the kids because he thinks it’ll be fun and exciting for them. I’m afraid they might be too dangerous. Who’s right?
A: Suzanne, both you and your husband are right. Fireworks can be fun and exciting for children, but they are also dangerous. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year (primarily around Independence Day, from the end of June to the end of July) nearly 9,000 people are treated in emergency departments for injuries from fireworks. Approximately half of the injuries are to children under 15 years of age. Boys are injured three times as often as girls. Most of the injuries are burns to the hands, eyes and face. Many of the injuries are minor, but others result in lost fingers, blindness and even death.

Because of the dangers of fireworks, the federal government has made the most dangerous types illegal: reloadable mortar shells, cherry bombs, aerial bombs, M-80s and large firecrackers. Also be aware of your state and local laws. Some states have made all home fireworks illegal.

Although many parents think that sparklers are safe, they injure more children than any other fireworks. Sparklers burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and a spark can burn clothes and cause permanent eye damage.

Out of concern for children’s safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends banning home fireworks altogether. Instead, they suggest that parents take their children to public fireworks displays.

Nonetheless, many people continue to use fireworks at home. If you use them the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Council on Fireworks Safety recommend the following safety precautions:

  • Only buy fireworks from reliable sellers. Don’t experiment with homemade fireworks.


  • Only use them outdoors. Light them away from the house and dry grass to prevent fires.


  • Always have water on-hand for emergencies.


  • Only allow adults to handle them. Never allow children to touch fireworks, including sparklers.


  • Read and follow the directions on the label.


  • Never light fireworks inside containers, especially glass or metal, since they can explode with dangerous force.


  • Light only one firework at a time.


  • Don’t hold any part of your body or face over the firework when lighting it.


  • Never throw or point fireworks at other people.


  • If a firework is a dud don’t try to relight it. Instead, soak it in a bucket of water and throw it out.
For more information on fireworks safety, visit the Consumer Product Safety website, www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/july4/4thjuly.html.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician