America’s original independence day took place without muss or fuss, when the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. A year later, to commemorate the birth of the nation, bells rang, bonfires burned and fireworks lit the sky as Congress adjourned in Philadelphia.
Those bright bursts of color and sound have become as American as apple pie, as the saying goes. However, enjoying them can come with risk.
This may sound like finger-wagging, but a glance at fireworks accident statistics in recent years reveals thousands and thousands of Americans each year burn themselves or lose fingers or eyes or rupture ear drums. That number leapt higher in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely due to a lack of community events and an increase in families and individuals putting on their own demonstrations at home.
This year, municipalities across the region are hosting professional shows to celebrate July 4. Pittsburghers would do well to leave the entertainment to the professionals this year and attend a community show rather than mounting a potentially hazardous show at home.
After months of lockdown and business closures, many residents are understandably itching for an opportunity to gather and blow off steam. President Joe Biden’s White House is hosting an appropriately themed “Independence from Virus” bash on July 4 for first responders, essential workers and military personnel that will include fireworks over the National Mall.
While many may be tempted to recreate such festivities in their backyards, fireworks are best left to the pros. Each year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission publishes a report on fireworks.
The 2020 report estimates there were 10,000 fireworks-related injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2019, as well as at least 12 deaths. More than 70% of these injuries occurred between June 1, 2019, and July 1, 2019, and many involved the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
A more recent CPSC report isn’t yet available, but there are numerous more locally focused reports that indicate fireworks injuries increased significantly in 2020. For 2021, let’s avoid the risk of an emergency room visit and be entertained by professionally staged fireworks displays in a community setting.