Around the July 4 Independence Day holiday each year in the United States,
injuries associated with homemade fireworks are increasingly common. During
June-July 2002, approximately 5,700 persons were treated for fireworks-related
injuries at US emergency departments1 ; approximately
300 (5.3%) were injured in incidents involving illegal and homemade fireworks.
CDC and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommend that fireworks
be handled only by professionals.2 To describe
injuries and emergency responses resulting from homemade fireworks explosions,
the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) researched data
from its Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system.
This report summarizes four incidents involving homemade fireworks explosions
that were identified by the surveillance system. To prevent injuries and deaths,
no one should attempt to make their own fireworks.
HSEES is an active, multistate surveillance system that tracks the release
of hazardous substances during emergency events* reported by participating
state health departments.† ATSDR searched the HSEES database for reports
of incidents involving homemade fireworks for all years for which data were
available (1993-2004)‡ from the 17 participating states. Because HSEES
has no specific category for homemade fireworks incidents, certain incidents
might not have been identified. Incidents involving bottle bombs, pipe bombs,
smoke bombs, and other explosive devices were not included.
Iowa. In 2004, a man aged 52 years was making
fireworks in the living room of his home when an explosion occurred. The explosion
was believed to have been sparked by a metal spoon used to mix gunpowder,
sulfur chlorate, and phosphorus in a metal can. The man died from his injuries.
A hazardous materials (HazMat) team was called in to conduct decontamination
and debris removal at the property.
New York. In 2001, a report of a loud explosion
and white smoke brought the local fire department, HazMat team, and state
police to a rural area south of a mobile home park. The explosion caused the
release of ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate, and other unidentified chemicals
that were being used by the homeowner to manufacture fireworks on his property.
No injuries were reported; however, the HazMat team conducted initial decontamination
and debris removal at the property, and the owner was ordered to conduct soil
sampling and remediate all areas of contaminated soil.
Utah. In 2002, a man aged 43 years was making
fireworks by using ammonium nitrate and picric acid when an explosion occurred
in his home. The man lost several fingers as a result of the blast. Forty-five
residents of the area were evacuated for approximately 6 hours while local
police and fire departments, along with the county health department and the
state environmental protection agency, responded.
Washington. In 1993, a man aged 27 years and
a youth aged 15 years died when chemicals being used to manufacture illegal
fireworks exploded and fire destroyed their mobile home. The chemicals included
barium nitrate, nitrocellulose, potassium nitrate, potassium perchlorate,
strontium nitrate, and sulfur. State and federal agencies, along with a local
HazMat team, decontaminated the property and removed debris.
Although certain types of fireworks are legal in some states, all fireworks
are potentially dangerous because of their composition and unpredictability.
Homemade fireworks can pose a particular risk for injury because of the lack
of knowledge and experience of persons preparing these materials. CDC and
CPSC recommend that fireworks be manufactured and handled only by professionals.
Additional information regarding the hazards posed by fireworks and state
and federal regulations that govern their use is available at CPSC at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/012.pdf and CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/spotlite/firework_spot.htm.
D Cooper, Iowa Dept of Public Health. R Wilburn, MPH, J Ehrlich, MPH,
WL Welles, PhD, New York State Dept of Health. S Stemmons, Utah Dept of Health.
L Gunnells, Washington State Dept of Health. DK Horton, MSPH, WE Kaye, PhD,
Div of Health Studies, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
*An HSEES event is the release or threatened release of a hazardous
substance(s) into the environment in an amount that requires (or would have
required) removal, clean-up, or neutralization according to federal, state,
or local law.3 A hazardous substance is one
that can reasonably be expected to cause an adverse health effect.
†During 1993-2004, a total of 17 state health departments participated
in HSEES. State health departments in Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, New York, North
Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin participated during the
entire period. Eight state health departments participated during portions
of this period: Louisiana (2001-2004), Minnesota (1995-2004), Mississippi
(1995-2004), Missouri (1994-2004), New Hampshire (1993-1996), New Jersey (2000-2004),
Rhode Island (1993-2001), and Utah (2000-2004).
‡Data for 2003 and 2004 are preliminary.
Brief Report: Injuries Associated With Homemade Fireworks—Selected States, 1993-2004. JAMA. 2004;292(13):1545-1546. doi:10.1001/jama.292.13.1545