CPSC Warns Consumers that Using Professional Fireworks Often has Deadly Results

June 27, 2006
Release Number: 06-197

Between 2000 and 2005, CPSC has reports of 36 fireworks-related consumer deaths, the CPSC announced today on the Washington Mall. More than a third of these incidents involved professional devices, which were sold illegally to consumers.

CPSC is aware of an incident involving professional fireworks last 4th of July in which a man was killed. He was lighting a 4-inch professional display mortar shell in a homemade mortar tube with a cigarette lighter. It launched almost immediately after being lit and struck the man in the face as he was hunched over the tube.

"Commercial fireworks are much more powerful and often ignite faster than you can imagine," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "They are illegal in the hands of consumers and should only be used by licensed professionals."

CPSC's staff estimates, in its 2005 Fireworks Annual Report (pdf), that there were 10,800 emergency room-treated injuries associated with all fireworks in 2005. Most of these injuries, 6,500, occurred between June 18 and July 18, 2005.

To reduce these injuries, CPSC encourages consumers who use fireworks to safely use legal consumer fireworks. The federal government also is committed to stopping the manufacture and sale of illegal fireworks, which can be deadly if used by consumers. CPSC is working to do its part to keep American families safe by enforcing fireworks regulations and by prosecuting dealers and distributors who manufacture and sell illegal explosives.

As a part of its fireworks enforcement program, CPSC actively works with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Through undercover buys, online purchases, inspections and investigations, CPSC and ATF are tracking down and closing illegal roadside stands, warehouses and retail stores that sell professional grade explosives to consumers, and homes that serve as havens for the manufacture of dangerous fireworks devices. CPSC also works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the Department of Homeland Security to prevent millions of hazardous and illegal fireworks from entering U.S. ports and reaching consumers. For example, since 1988, CPSC and CBP have seized or detained nearly 460 million hazardous fireworks at docks across the country. The investigative work conducted by CPSC and ATF has led to dozens of successful prosecutions by the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation and U.S. Attorney's offices across the country.

CPSC recommends following these fireworks safety tips:

- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

- Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown, paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the fireworks were made for the professional shows and could pose a danger to consumers.

- Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don't realize that there are more injuries from sparklers to children under five than from any other type of fireworks. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

- Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back a safe distance immediately after lighting.

- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.

- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

- Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.

- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.