When I was a kid, my grandfather almost set my cousin and me on fire. It was July 4, and we were huddled post-swim in a blanket on the patio waiting for the traditional family fireworks extravaganza. Grandpa decided to kick things off by lighting up a couple of our favorite treats: sparklers.
As he passed them into our excited little hands, the sparks from said sparklers ignited our blanket, which flamed up and sent us scurrying. We were lucky, and not injured, but it seems families haven’t learned much since those days. About 6,000 children a year in the U.S. suffer firework-related injuries serious enough to send them to the emergency room.
My grandfather used to buy the “safe” fireworks, but experts now tell us there is no such thing. “Every type of legally available firework has been associated with serious injury or death,” says Gary Smith, M.D., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. The tip of my childhood favorite, sparklers, can actually burn at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. And in 25% of cases, the children who are injured in fireworks accidents aren’t even the ones handling the fireworks. They’re just bystanders.
That’s why experts (and I) urge families not to play with fire at home. Pack a picnic and attend a public display by the pros instead. It’s safer, and more sparkly, than anything you can spark up in the back yard.