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Fireworks Injuries

Click here to view a video clip that demonstrates the importance of leaving fireworks displays to the professionals.

Fireworks are often a part of special times like the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. But fireworks can be dangerous. In 2008, an estimated 7,000 people—an average of more than 19 people every day—were treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained from fireworks¹, and more than half of those injured were children. Whenever you celebrate, learn how to protect yourself and those you care about from fireworks–related injuries.

How can fireworks injuries be prevented?

  • The safest way to prevent fireworks-related injuries is to leave fireworks displays to trained professionals.

How big is the problem?

  • In 2008, seven people died and an estimated 7,000 were treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in the United States.¹

Who is most at risk for fireworks-related injuries?

  • More than two out of every three fireworks-related injuries in 2008 occurred between June 20 and July 20. During that time period:
    • Children and young adults: More than 4 of every 10 people injured were children under 15 years of age.
    • More than half (58%) of all injuries from fireworks occurred among young people under twenty years of age.
    • Males: those people injured by fireworks were male.1
  • People actively participating in fireworks–related activities are more frequently and severely injured than bystanders.2

What kinds of injuries occur?

  • Between June 20 and July 20, 2008:
    • The body parts most often injured were hands and fingers (1,400 injuries), eyes (1,000 injuries), and legs (900 injuries).1
    • More than half of the injuries were burns. Burns were the most common injury to all body parts except the eyes and head areas, where bruises, cuts and foreign bodies in the eye occurred more frequently.1
  • Fireworks can cause blindness, third degree burns, and permanent scarring.2
  • Fireworks can also cause life-threatening home and motor vehicle fires.1

What types of fireworks are associated with most injuries?

  • Between June 20 and July 20, 2008:
    • There were 900 injuries associated with firecrackers, 800 associated with sparklers and 300 associated with rockets. Of the injuries associated with firecrackers, 500 involved small firecrackers.1
  • Between 2000 and 2005, more than one-third of the fireworks-related deaths involved professional devices that were illegally sold to consumers.3

How and why do these injuries occur?

  • Availability: In spite of federal regulations and varying state prohibitions, many types of fireworks are still accessible to the public. Distributors often sell fireworks near state borders, where laws prohibiting sales on either side of the border may differ.
  • Fireworks type: Among the various types of fireworks, (some of which are sold legally depending on the state), bottle rockets can fly into the face and cause eye injuries; sparklers can ignite clothing (sparklers burn at more than 1,000°F); and firecrackers can injure the hands or face if they explode at close range.
  • Close proximity: Injuries may result from being too close to fireworks when they explode; for example, when someone leans over to look more closely at a firework that has been ignited, or when a misguided bottle rocket hits a nearby person.
  • Lack of physical coordination: Younger children often lack the physical coordination to handle fireworks safely.
  • Curiosity: Children are often excited and curious around fireworks, which can increase their chances of being injured (for example, when they re-examine a firecracker dud that initially fails to ignite).
  • Experimentation: Homemade fireworks (for example, ones made of the powder from several firecrackers) can lead to dangerous and unpredictable explosions.4

What is the cost of fireworks-related property damage?

  • An estimated 22,500 reported fires were started by fireworks in 2008. These fires resulted in $42 million in direct property damage.5

What are the laws?

  • State laws vary widely: Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission prohibits the sale of the most dangerous types of fireworks and the components intended to make them. The banned fireworks include various large aerial devices, M-80s, quarter-sticks, half-sticks and other large firecrackers. Any firecracker with more than 50 milligrams of explosive powder and any aerial firework with more than 130 milligrams of flash powder is banned under federal law, as are mail order kits and components designed to build these fireworks.6

When it comes to preventing injuries, it is always safest to leave fireworks to trained professionals.


  1. Greene MA, Joholske J. 2008 Fireworks Annual Report: Fireworks-Related Deaths, Emergency Department Treated Injuries, and Enforcement Activities During 2008. Washington (DC): U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; 2009 [cited May 25 2010].
    Available at URL:
  2. Smith GA, Knapp JF, Barnett, TM, Shields BJ. The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air: fireworks-related injuries to children. Pediatrics 1996; 98(1):1–9.
  3. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC warns consumers that using professional fireworks often has deadly results. [cited 22 May 2008]. Bethesda (MD):U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; 2006a.
    Available at URL:
  4. CDC. Brief Report: Injuries Associated with Homemade Fireworks—Selected States, 1993–2004. MMWR 2004: 53(25);562–563.
    Available at URL:
  5. Hall JR. Fireworks. Quincy (MA): NFPA; 2009 [cited 15 June 2009].
    Available at URL: (PDF 397KB, 54 pages)
  6. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Pennsylvania Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Repeatedly Selling Illegal Fireworks Components [online press release]. 2006b [cited 22 May 2008]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
    Available at URL:

Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control


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