Editorial: Eye injuries from fireworks not uncommon, so follow these tips

Jul. 01, 2013 @ 11:33 PM

The dangers of fireworks cannot be stressed too much. We know they can cause serious burns. But they also can create damage to the eyes.

The American and Tennessee academies of Ophthalmology suggest those who use or watch fireworks take steps to prevent eye injuries. These warnings are particularly important when children are present.

Of the more than 9,000 fireworks injuries that occur in the United States each year, approximately 45 percent are sustained by children age 15 and under, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Eyes are among the most injured body parts. One in six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness, the British Journal of Ophthalmology reports.

All fireworks are dangerous if not properly handled; we all now that. And it doesn’t matter if they are bought at a seasonal tent on the highway or from a year-round supplier. You may be surprised to know that sparklers cause the most injury and are particularly dangerous since many children handle them. Sparklers typically burn at 1,200 degrees. That temperature is nearly 1,000 degrees hotter than the boiling point of water — double the heat required to burn wood, hot enough to melt glass and cause third-degree burns to the skin.

Out-of-control bottle rockets also cause some of the most serious eye injuries, including corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage and rupture of the eyeball – all of which can lead to potential blindness.

Both academies say the best way to avoid eye injuries is to attend a professional public fireworks display instead of using consumer fireworks.

For those who still decide to use legal consumer fireworks, the Academy recommends they follow these safety tips:

  • Never handle fireworks without protective eyewear and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
  • Never let young children play with fireworks of any type. If older children are permitted to handle fireworks, ensure they are closely supervised by an adult and wear protective eyewear.
  • Clear the area of flammable materials and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyrotechnicians.