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Fireworks Can Cause Vision Loss

Jun 27, 2013 11:00PM ● By Anonymous

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches and Americans make plans to celebrate the stars and stripes with a little red glare from celebratory rockets, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons urge the public to take important steps to prevent fireworks-related eye injuries. The Academy asks parents and other adults to exercise caution when handling fireworks themselves and to be especially diligent in managing and monitoring their use by children.

  Of the more than 9,000 fireworks injuries that occur in the United States each year, [i] approximately 45 percent are sustained by children age 15 and under.[ii] Eyes are among the most injured body parts,[iii] and one in six fireworks-related eye injuries results in permanent vision loss or blindness.[iv]

  All fireworks are dangerous if not properly handled; however, sparklers cause the most injury and are particularly dangerous since many children handle them on their own. Sparklers typically burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is nearly 1,000 degrees hotter than the boiling point of water, double the heat required to burn wood, hot enough to melt glass and cause third-degree burns to the skin.[v] Out-of-control bottle rockets also cause some of the most serious eye injuries, including corneal abrasions, traumatic cataract, retinal detachment, optic nerve damage and rupture of the eyeball - all of which can lead to potential blindness.  

The Academy advises the public that the best way to avoid potentially blinding injuries is to attend a professional public fireworks display instead of using consumer fireworks. For those who still decide to use consumer fireworks, the Academy recommends they follow these safety tips to prevent eye injuries:

  • Never handle fireworks without protective eyewear and ensure that all bystanders are also wearing eye protection.
  • Never let young children play with fireworks of any type. If older children are permitted to handle fireworks, ensure they are closely supervised by an adult and wear protective eyewear.
  • Clear the area of flammable materials and view fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Leave the lighting of professional-grade fireworks to trained pyro technicians.

  For those who attend professional fireworks displays and/or live in communities surrounding the shows:

  • Respect safety barriers at fireworks shows.
  • Do not touch unexploded display (show) fireworks; instead, immediately contact local fire or police departments to help.

  “It's vital that the public take seriously the dangers of using consumer fireworks. If mishandled, devastating injuries can occur - particularly to the eyes," said Basil Morgan, MD, MSEPS President. "We urge parents and adults to be on high alert about these risks, especially if children are in the presence of fireworks, and take these safety measures to reduce the risk of eye injury."  

The Academy and the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons believes these tips can help to ensure safe Independence Day observances for everyone. If, however, a fireworks-related eye injury occurs, call 911 and seek medical help immediately. These injuries typically need advanced care by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions.

About the Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons
The Maryland Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons is the State's ophthalmological society that serves to enlighten and influence public awareness pertaining to ophthalmology issues; acts as an advocate for patient's quality of care; articulates and advocates on behalf of patients and ophthalmologists and develops continuing education programs for physicians.

  About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons - Eye M.D.s - with more than 32,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" - ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit aao.org.

[i] Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2011 Fireworks Annual Report, accessed at http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/113888/2011fwreport.pdf 
[ii] Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Fireworks-Related Injuries to Children, accessed at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/108/1/190.full 
Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2011 Fireworks Annual Report, accessed at http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/113888/2011fwreport.pdf 
[iv] British Journal of Ophthalmology, Ocular firework trauma: a systematic review on incidence, severity, outcome and prevention, accessed at http://bjo.bmj.com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/content/94/12/1586.full#ref-11 
[v] National Fireworks Protection Agency fireworks tips, accessed at http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/public%20education/fireworkssafetytips.pdf