Fireworks - How to Have a Safe Fourth (cont.)

Safety while watching public fireworks

Celebrate America's birthday safely by attending only professional fireworks displays. It's safer, cheaper and more impressive. Respect barriers set up by the professionals who are putting on the show. Bystanders suffer about 25% of all fireworks-related injuries. If you stand 500 feet away, you'll be safe (and you'll have the best possible view).

If you do plan to set off your own fireworks, you need to know the difference between legal consumer fireworks and dangerous explosives. Class 1.3G fireworks are illegal in the US without an appropriate ATF license/permit and punishable by up to five years in prison. If you see an item called an M-80, M-100, Cherry Bombs, Silver Salutes, or Quarter Sticks, these are against the law and usually bear no manufacturer's label. Illegal mail order kits contain chemical mixtures that can explode unexpectedly and violently. M-80s, cherry bombs and quarter sticks are so highly explosive that they have been banned by Federal law since 1966. They can cause injury or even death. Check with your local fire department to learn what fireworks can be legally set off in your area.

NEVER give fireworks to a young child. Sparklers are not safe for children! They burn at a temperature hot enough to melt gold (2,000°F, 1093.3°C). Also, used sparkler wires are especially dangerous at night. These must be disposed of into a container away from children and bare feet!

Bottle Rockets are the most dangerous consumer firework. They fly erratically and can shower spectators with glass, metal and shrapnel.

If you're putting on the fireworks display yourself, use a transparent mask or glasses made of a strong material such as polycarbonate. Even spectators should wear protective gear. If someone does sustain an eye injury, don't touch it. Get medical help immediately.

To avoid the possibility of injury, consider a public fireworks display. The risk of blindness or other injury isn't worth the thrill of handling your own fireworks. If you see a professional show, the only thing you'll have to do is finish the barbecue, wait for dark and let the show begin.

Portions of the information in this article have been provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Centers for Disease Control (

Last Editorial Review: 7/3/2008