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Light Up July 4th -- Safely

Before you light up that sparkler, learn some fireworks safety tips to help you bring in Independence Day with a bang, and without injury.

Illegal and Improper Use

Improperly using fireworks, and using illegal fireworks, means you're playing with fire.

"The misuse of legal products, such as lighting several sparklers at a time, can cause serious injury," says Crampton.

Serious injury can also come from mixing fireworks with alcohol -- a recipe for disaster.

"As you get into the teenagers, and the older age groups, almost every injury is associated with drinking," says Harry Severance, MD, of Duke University. "People say, 'Let's go out on the beach, have a few beers, and blow up some rockets,' -- not smart."

And though you can't buy fireworks in some states because they're illegal, that doesn't mean people don't make their own.

"When someone says, 'I'm going to take five m80s apart and make an m1000,' you're talking about making an explosive on the level of an industrial explosion," says Severance, spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. "You're talking about an incredible blast force. If you are up close and personal to that, you can receive blast type injuries, such as shock wave damage -- penetrating injuries where the fireworks are embedded in a person; you can really hurt yourself with large homemade fireworks, and they're all illegal."

Safety Tips

The good news is that if used properly, fireworks can be safe -- and fun. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of injuries, even though fireworks usage has increased dramatically since 1976, because of improved product safety and improved consumer education.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Council on Fireworks Safety, follow these tips to safely celebrate your independence:

  • Always read and follow label directions on all fireworks carefully, to make sure you are properly using the product.
  • Have an adult present when using fireworks; never give fireworks to small children, and never leave older kids unsupervised with fireworks.
  • Buy from reliable sellers.
  • Use fireworks outdoors only.
  • Always have water handy (a garden hose and a bucket), and when you're finished with sparklers and other fireworks, soak them so you know they're out.
  • Never experiment or make your own fireworks, and light only one at a time.
  • Never re-light a "dud" firework (wait 15 to 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water).
  • If necessary, store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Dispose of fireworks properly by soaking them in water and then disposing of them in your tartan.
  • Never throw or point fireworks at other people.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket.
  • Never shoot fireworks in metal or glass containers.
  • The shooter should always wear eye protection and never have any part of the body over the firework.
  • Stay away from illegal explosives.

After going through your safety list, and before you strike that match and light up that sparkler, check to make sure you're not breaking any laws.

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