Ohio officials concerned about rise in use of home fireworks amid pandemic

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — As Northeast Ohio communities cancel independence day fireworks shows due to COVID-19 — health and safety officials are concerned about a rise in the use of both legal and illegal fireworks at home.  

“Eye burns, facial burns I’ve unfortunately seen quite a bit of mangled fingers from fireworks,” says Dr. Baruch Fertel, Director of Operations and Quality for Emergency Departments at the Cleveland Clinic.

Fertel says that people should make sure they are away from anything that’s combustible or could burn easily.

“Ideally, they should be wearing some eye protection and it should be handled by an adult who has not used alcohol or any kind of intoxicating substance,” Fertel says.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2019 Fireworks Annual Report, roughly 7,300 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency rooms between June 21 and July 21, 2019.

They say sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals.

The State Fire Marshal’s office reminds people that fireworks that smoke, sparkle, snap and snake are the only ones that can be legally discharged.

But the office recommends using glow sticks for kids instead of sparklers.

The state fire marshal’s office, as well as many local fire departments, have already seen a surge in complaints regarding unlicensed fireworks displays – putting families in danger and tying up the resources of law enforcement.

Fertel says drinking responsibly is also paramount.

“Don’t drive a car, don’t operate a boat, don’t operate heavy machinery, it’s not the time to get on the ladder, it’s not the time to try doing daredevil stunts in the pool,” he says.

Doctors say those safety measures typically recommended during the holidays still stand, but with a pandemic, there are more precautions to keep in mind, like considering the risks of family visiting from areas that have a high number of COVID cases. 

Fertel strongly encourages people to wear a mask if you’re considering going to a firework show that isn’t canceled or having friends come over. 

“If people can socially distance, wear a mask and be outdoors and I would say the chance of catching the virus is exceedingly low,” he says.

There is also some concern when it comes to wearing masks while setting off fireworks. 

“These masks, a lot of them are a fabric or a material that is flammable,” Fertel says. “It’s about being careful and maintaining safety, you wouldn’t want to have any loose items are your bending over to light those fireworks.”

The bottom line, Fertel says, “It’s a beautiful holiday, celebrating our country, responsibly.”

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