All About Fireworks & Eye Safety

Injuries from fireworks cause approximately 9,100 visits to the emergency room each year, with 15 percent of those injuries being eye-related, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Eye injuries from fireworks range from minor burns to severe trauma that can lead to permanent vision loss.

While many think sparklers are safe for children, experts consider sparklers a significant safety hazard. “Small sparklers, which can reach a temperature of 2,000 degrees, can cause serious burns,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Fireworks should only be handled by professionals; they should never be handled by children.” Sparklers caused 700 injuries in 2023. Firecrackers caused the most injuries, 800, the CPSC reported.

The safest way to celebrate? Choose to attend professional fireworks displays organized by experts. These displays are conducted with safety protocols in place and ensure spectators can enjoy the show without endangering themselves. Even when attending public celebrations, though, it’s important to keep a safe distance: at least 500 feet.

If you do choose personal fireworks, use these safety tips from experts to prevent eye injuries on the Fourth of July and any other time fireworks are part of your celebration:

  • Don’t assume that the fireworks you’ve purchased are safe. “In fiscal year 2023, approximately 18 percent of selected and tested fireworks products were found to contain non-compliant components, including fuse violations, the presence of prohibited chemicals and pyrotechnic materials overload,” the CPSC reported.
  • Adhere strictly to local laws and guidelines. Get permits and understand proper handling and launching procedures to minimize risks.
  • Wear ANSI-certified safety glasses or goggles specifically designed for fireworks. Regular glasses or sunglasses do not provide adequate protection against debris or sparks that can cause severe eye injuries.
  • Establish a designated safety zone and ensure everyone present understands and respects these boundaries. Many injuries occur because individuals lean over fireworks or hold them incorrectly, resulting in unexpected explosions or sparks directly impacting the face and eyes.
  • Protect your guests. “One CPSC study showed that 65 percent of people injured by fireworks are bystanders,” according to Hopkins Medicine. “Two of the most common causes of fireworks-related injuries are from mortar-type fireworks and bottle rockets, which are thrown before they explode and can strike an innocent bystander.”
  • Never underestimate the potential danger of fireworks, even seemingly harmless ones like sparklers, which can ignite clothing and cause serious burns to the eyes, face and hands.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Keep a first aid kit handy and include items to flush eyes in case of injury. Know where the nearest medical facilities are and have a plan for transportation.
  • Consider alternatives that are safer and equally enjoyable: Glow sticks and other light-up novelties can contribute to a safer celebration for everyone involved.
  • Share fireworks safety information with friends, family members and your community. Download this safety sheet from the CPSC.


Related: Fireworks are out, drones are in? Why a July 4th tradition is slowly evolving  The colorful explosions can harm our health, our environment, and our pets. Is drone technology becoming the new preferred way to celebrate? National Geographic reports.

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