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On Independence Day, Think Fireworks Safety First
Date:7/4/2008

Experts say leave the July 4 celebrations to the pros

FRIDAY, July 4 (HealthDay News) -- Fireworks can be breathtaking spectacles, creating glittering showers of sparks and earth-rumbling booms that thrill people for miles around.

Backyard fireworks can produce their own thrills, but mainly for young boys who love to blow stuff up. And therein lies the danger.

"The natural predisposition for kids is to make the biggest bang in the most cleverly engineered ways possible," said Dr. Tim Stout, an ophthalmologist with Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland. "They try to set up big explosions, and those are the kinds that can cause serious injury."

The truth is, experts say, fireworks are only truly safe when someone else -- preferably a trained professional miles from you -- is setting them off.

Fireworks caused an estimated 9,200 injuries that required treatment in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2006, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Seven out of 10 of those injuries -- approximately 6,400 -- occurred during the one-month period surrounding the Fourth of July.

The damage isn't limited to life and limb, either. In 2004, fireworks started an estimated 1,600 structure fires and 600 vehicle fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, resulting in 20 injuries and $21 million in direct property damage.

Groups like Prevent Blindness America and the National Fire Protection Association take a hard line on fireworks, telling people there's no safe way to use them yourself.

"We believe the public should avoid the use of consumer fireworks and just enjoy public displays of fireworks performed by trained professionals," said Lorraine Carli, spokeswoman for the National Fire Protection Association.

The majority of fireworks-related injuries are caused by three of the most commonly used devices, Carli said. Small fire
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