July 4 Fireworks Warning: Optical Organizations Urge Avoiding Eye Injury

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NEW YORK—As the July 4th holiday commences, optical organizations are urging the public to be aware of the threat of fireworks to eye safety and the potential for eye injury and blindness that fireworks may cause. To avoid the risk of injury and hospitalization, associations such as the Academy of Ophthalmology, Prevent Blindness and VSP Vision Care are issuing warnings about fireworks and offering tips on celebrating the holiday safely.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Fireworks Annual Report, fireworks were involved in an estimated 8,700 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms during the calendar year 2012 (June 2013). Of those injuries, 5,200 occurred in the month surrounding the July 4th holiday with an average of 200 people visiting the emergency room with fireworks related injuries each day. An estimated 12 percent of those involved eye injuries.

CPSC also cites that 30 percent of the estimated injuries occurred in children younger than 15 years of age. Calling attention to the risk posed to children during this holiday, a statement from the Academy of Ophthalmology warns that fireworks are not toys, but “incendiary devices that can cause devastating eye injuries,” and has issued recommendations to help deter “dangerous Independence Day celebrations.”

The Academy recommends avoiding consumer fireworks such as bottle rockets and sparklers and instead attending a public display. For those attending professional fireworks displays or living in areas surrounding them, the Academy recommends respecting safety barriers, viewing fireworks from at least 500 feet away and avoiding touching unexploded displays. For those who purchase consumer fireworks, keeping them away from children and wearing ANSI (American National Standards Institute)-approved protective eyewear, which can be found in local hardware stores, is recommended at all times.

More tips from the Academy of Ophthalmology are available in this viewer-friendly Fireworks Injuries Infographic along with materials posted on the AAO EyeSmart website.

Prevent Blindness is also urging the public not to use consumer fireworks throughout the holiday and is offering up safe alternatives for family fun.

Suggestions include making pinwheels or wind socks with an Independence Day theme, wrapping flashlights in colored cellophane to provide shades of light and purchasing non-toxic glow-sticks instead of potentially dangerous fireworks and sparklers. As a public health-based organization, Prevent Blindness also stated their support of the development and enforcement of bans on the importation, sale and use of all fireworks and sparklers, except authorized public displays by licensed operators.

More Firework Injury Stats and Safety Tips are available from the CPSC on USA.gov. Another infographic offering Surprising Facts About Firework Safety from VSP Vision Care is available in VM’s Multimedia section.