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BUFFALO, NEW YORK; June 28, 2005 - To help area residents to enjoy a safe and happy 4th of July celebration, the Emergency Department at the Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) is reminding Western New Yorkers that fireworks are illegal in New York State and can be dangerous when handled by amateurs.

In 2003, nearly 10,000 persons were treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in the United States (Greene 2004). Bootleg fireworks, such as M-80s and M-100s that have been banned since 1966, cause one third of these injuries. The most common injuries are to the hands and eyes, and these injuries most often occur through misuse rather than poor manufacturing. Many injuries are to children whose Fourth of July celebration turns into a trip to the hospital emergency room.

"Every year people are brought to the emergency room after an accident with illegal fireworks," noted Dr. Dietrich Jehle, Director of Emergency Services at ECMC. "We are hoping that by letting people know how dangerous these devices are ahead of time, there will be fewer injuries this Fourth of July," concluded Dr. Jehle.

Following are some statistics about fireworks injuries and damages:

  • About 45% of persons injured from fireworks are children ages 14 years and younger and Males represent 72% of all injuries (Greene 2004).
  • Firecrackers (24%), rockets (18%), and sparklers (11%) accounted for most of the injuries seen in emergency departments during 2003 (Greene 2004).
  • In addition to medical costs directly and indirectly attributable to fireworks injuries, U.S. fire departments reported approximately 24,200 fireworks-related fires in 1999 that were estimated to have cost $17.2 million in direct property damage (NFPA 2002).

Some examples of unfortunate injuries and deaths, documented by the Consumer Product Safety Commission include:

  • A 33 year-old man was setting off mortar style fireworks out of a black plastic pipe while in his backyard. As he leaned over one of the tubes and lit the fuse, the fireworks immediately went off striking him in the face. He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead from head injuries.
  • A 6-inch fountain that shot colored fireballs injured a 4-year-old girl. When the fountain tipped over, the victim was struck in the chest by a fireball. She sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her chest and neck. She was hospitalized for three weeks for burn treatment and skin grafts.
  • A 15-year-old male tied together the wires of 10 sparklers. The sparklers ignited quickly and burned down very fast, finally exploding in his hand. The victim sustained a five-inch long laceration to his hand and forearm exposing muscle. Also, debris from the explosion lodged in his hand and arm. The victim had plastic surgery and has recovered.

The Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation encompasses an advanced academic medical center with 550 inpatient beds and 156 skilled nursing home beds, on- and off-campus health centers, over 40 outpatient specialty care clinics, and the Erie County Home, a 586-bed skilled nursing facility. The medical center serves as the regional center for trauma, burn, rehabilitation, and a major teaching facility for the State University of New York at Buffalo. The ECMC Corporation is dedicated to being the medical center of choice through excellence in patient care and customer service.

NEWS CONTACT: Joe Cirillo (716) 898-4300

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