WASHINGTON - Put safety first when marking Independence Day with the traditional fireworks, says the National Council on Fireworks Safety.
Because of stringent federal safety standards enacted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1976, the incidence of fireworks-related injuries has been greatly reduced, says Ann Crampton, executive director of the fireworks safety council. But she says it can be cut further by following a few simple guidelines, and one in particular.
"Only use legal fireworks," she says.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that legal fireworks show the name of the item, the name of the manufacturer or distributor and easy-to-read cautionary labeling and instructions for proper use.
"Commonly used consumer fireworks include cones, fountains and sparklers," Ms. Crampton says. Illegal devices include cherry bombs, silver salutes and M80s. They have been federally banned since 1966 because of the amount of explosive material they contain.
"Illegal devices will usually be unlabeled, will not bear a caution statement and will not list the manufacturer's name," Ms. Crampton says. "Illegal explosive devices are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injuries. If you find any illegal items, or know of anyone selling them, contact your local police immediately."
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology as many as 5,000 eye injuries are expected to result from fireworks this year. About one-third of these will result in permanenteye damage and one-fourth in permanent vision loss or blindness.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety and the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend these precautions when celebrating with fireworks:
-- A responsible adult should supervise all fireworks activities.
-- Never give fireworks to young children. The average age of those injured is 13 years.
-- Always purchase fireworks from reliable sources.
-- Follow label directions carefully.
-- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
-- Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from buildings and vehicles.
-- Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
-- Light them one at a time, then move back quickly.
-- Don't experiment with homemade fireworks.
-- Sparklers, fountains and other items are not appropriate when a large crowd is present. If attending a community display, leave your own fireworks at home - there will be plenty of excitement provided by the display.
-- Always wear glasses or safety goggles when lighting fireworks. Even spectators should consider wearing protective gear; about one-fourth of those injured each year are bystanders.
-- Never put firecrackers in tin cans, clay pots, or bottles that can shatter under impact and scatter fragments like shrapnel.
-- In the case of an eye injury, do not touch the eye; immediately seek emergency medical attention.