fireworks display
Doctors and fireworks vendors recommend being as safe as possible when celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks. | Photo by Jeremy Geiss

Whether it be at a local park, on the river or in a neighbor’s backyard, the Fourth of July is America’s favorite time to host or attend a fireworks show.

But with an increase in fireworks comes a potential increase in injuries. Around 280 people wind up in emergency rooms due to fireworks-related injuries every day during the Fourth of July season, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Given the potential harm, Louisville-area stores, doctors and experts are asking people to use fireworks safely and responsibly this Fourth of July.

“Safety first, fun second,” said Adam Wheeler, general manager of Phantom Fireworks of Louisville South. “We sell fun, but we definitely stress safety.”

Wheeler told Insider Louisville there are a few major safety precautions customers can take while celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks: Only allow sober adults to handle fireworks; only set off fireworks on a hard, flat surface; have a water source on hand (and have someone in charge of using the water source in case things go wrong); use eye protection and gloves; and only buy fireworks from a licensed fireworks dealer.

“Don’t buy stuff out of people’s trucks, don’t buy stuff that doesn’t have warning labels,” Wheeler added.

Many injuries don’t come from legally sold fireworks, he said, but rather from illegally imported products or altered fireworks that are essentially just explosive devices.

Wheeler said one of the biggest ways to help prevent injuries is to not let children handle any fireworks, even small products like sparklers.

“They look at it and they think, ‘Well, it’s a small item.’ Well, just because it’s a small item doesn’t mean it can’t harm you,” he said.

Using caution with small fireworks also is a point of emphasis for University of Louisville Physicians, which said small fireworks can lead to many eye-related injuries.

“As an ocular and orbital trauma surgeon, I have seen some disastrous fireworks-related injuries,” said Dr. Jeremy Clark, of UofL Physicians — Eye Specialists, in a news release. “I have treated patients from the ages of 6 to 76 with eye or orbit-related fireworks trauma. I have even had to tell a volunteer firefighter that his vision and eye could not be saved as a result of injuries from a fireworks explosion.”

About 19% of fireworks injuries are eye-related, according to the CPSC.

To be safe this Fourth of July, the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggested that people attending professional fireworks displays stay at least 500 feet away and don’t touch unexploded fireworks, asking instead that they call local the police or the fire department to come help.

They also recommended that those who suffer a fireworks-related injury seek medical attention immediately.

“We want everybody to have a good time in celebrating our country’s independence, but we want everyone to be safe and smart,” Wheeler said.

Setting off explosive or airborne fireworks in a Louisville neighborhood is illegal, according to the Louisville Air Pollution Control District. On top of potential harm from explosions, fireworks can cause complications for people with breathing issues, they noted in an advisory.

“Excessive smoke from firework displays can impact people who are suffering from breathing ailments like asthma, emphysema and COPD,” said Keith Talley Sr., the APCD director, in a statement. “So please consider your neighbors before you light that fuse.”

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