June 28, 2004
Sunday is the Fourth
"As July 4 approaches,
you're probably thinking about sitting out on the lawn with your
family and neighbors, eating snacks, and watching beautiful fireworks
bursting in the night sky. July 4 celebrations can be a lot of
fun, but you also need to be mindful of your safety.... Even sparklers
can be dangerous; they are the second highest cause of fireworks
related injuries requiring trips to the hospital. Sparklers can
heat up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot enough to melt
The Consumer Product
Safety Commission reminds us that:
"Although legal consumer fireworks that comply with the CPSC
regulations can be relatively safe, all fireworks are hazardous
and can cause injury. Fireworks are classified as hazardous substances
under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Some fireworks such
as illegal firecracker type devices (M-80's, quarter sticks) and
professional display fireworks should never be used or handled
by consumers or children due to serious injuries and death that
can and do occur from such use or handling...."
Some injuries occur when
products are used as directed but do not work as expected:
"A 6-inch fountain
that shot colored fireballs injured a 4-year-old girl. When the
fountain tipped over, the victim was struck in the chest by a
fireball. She sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her chest
and neck. She was hospitalized for three weeks for burn treatment
Some injuries occur when
products are altered and used in ways their creators never intended:
"A 15-year-old male
tied together the wires of 10 sparklers. The sparklers ignited
quickly and burned down very fast, finally exploding in his hand.
The victim sustained a five-inch long laceration to his hand and
forearm exposing muscle. Also, debris from the explosion lodged
in his hand and arm. The victim had plastic surgery and has recovered."
Whatever the cause, "In
2002, emergency departments treated
* 8,800 people for fireworks-related
injuries in the United States, and 4 people died from their injuries.
* About half of these injuries occurred among children ages 14
years and younger.
* Males sustained about 75% of all injuries.
* Hands and fingers (32%), eyes (21%), and head and face (17%)
were the parts of the body most frequently injured.
* More than half of the injuries involved burns (66%).
* Injuries were most commonly associated with sparklers (26%),
fire-crackers (18%), and rockets (15%)."
"More than half
of the injuries involved burns (66%)."
"Fire. Whether its
a tiny flame flickering on the end of a birthday cake candle,
or a wall of flame 200 feet tall and a mile wide roaring through
a forest, all fire is essentially the same. In simplest terms,
fire is a chemical reaction....Fuel, heat and oxygen are all needed
in the right combination to produce fire."
Fireworks produce the
heat, and the oxygen fills the air around us. If the heat and
flame are contained and are not allowed to come into contact with
any other fuel, then all goes well. It is when the flame is not
contained that problems can occur.
"How fast cloth
burns depends on what it is made of, how much air is available
during burning, and how hot the fire is while it is burning....
This information was taken from The Weaver's Companion, Interweave
"Wool: Burns slowly in an open flame, and self-extinguishes
when removed from the flame. Has a characteristic 'burning hair'
odor and produces an irregular dark ash....
"Linen: Burns quickly in an open flame, and continues to
glow when removed from the flame. Smells like burning grass and
produces a gray, feathery-smooth edge.
"Cotton: Burns quickly in an open flame, and continues to
glow when removed from the flame. Smells like burning paper and
produces a gray, feathery-smooth edge....
"Nylon: Burns slowly and melts in an open flame, and self-extinguishes
when removed from the flame. Produces a hard, gray bead....
"Polyester: Burns slowly and melts in an open flame, and
self-extinguishes when removed from the flame. Produces a hard,
(This is just a selection. More cloth types are included on the
As clothes can burn,
so can the people inside them.
"Burns are characterized
by degree, based on the severity of the tissue damage. A first-degree
burn causes redness and swelling in the outermost layers of skin
(epidermis). A second-degree burn involves redness, swelling and
blistering, and the damage may extend beneath the epidermis to
deeper layers of skin (dermis). A third-degree burn, also called
a full-thickness burn, destroys the entire depth of skin, causing
significant scarring. Damage also may extend to the underlying
fat, muscle, or bone....Burns may be caused by even a brief encounter
with heat greater than 120°F (49°C)."
"Burns may be caused
by even a brief encounter with heat greater than 120°F (49°C)."
"Sparklers can heat up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit."
To put these numbers
in perspective, temperatures need to reach "about 617 degrees
F, 325 degrees C for wood to burn..."
Yes, there are risks,
but what's the Fourth of July without fireworks? If fireworks
are illegal where you live, or if you just don't want to deal
with doing it yourself, there are often professionally done public
shows put on by cities, parks, or local organizations.
"If fireworks are
legal where you live and you decide to set them off on your own,
be sure to follow these important safety tips:
*Never allow children to play with or ignite fireworks
*Read and follow all warnings and instructions
*Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
*Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from the
house, dry leaves, and flammable materials.
*Never try to relight fireworks that have not fully functioned.
*Keep a bucket of water in case of a malfunction or fire."
Following these guidelines
will certainly reduce the chance of injury, but nothing is a 100%
guarantee. If something does go wrong, what would you do (and
what should you not do)?
"After your child
has been removed from the source of the burn, if he has a minor
burn, you should soak it in cold water for about fifteen minutes,
by placing it under running tap water or by covering the area
with a cold, wet towel. You should not put ice, butter, or any
ointments on the burn and do not break any blisters that have
formed. If possible, remove burned clothing or cut it away. Next
place a sterile dressing over the burned area and call your doctor
for further instructions, especially for second or three degree
burns, which should almost always be seen by a health professional."
Questions of the Week:
How can you safely enjoy this Fourth of July holiday? What do
you need to know (and what should you have with you) when setting
off fireworks yourself? If there is an accident, what would you
do? How can you know when an injury can be treated at home versus
when it should be seen by a medical professional?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum