Fireworks injuries in Illinois on the rise

Despite Illinois' ban on the sale of fireworks, the number of injuries caused by the patriotic pyrotechnics has continued to increase during the past decade.

Hospitals reported 349 fireworks-related injuries in 2017, capping off a rise during the past five years, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. That's about 2.7 injuries per 100,000 people, which is a higher rate than in Wisconsin (1.8) but lower than in Indiana, two neighboring states where "consumer fireworks" are legal.

John Sullivan, medical director of emergency services at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, has treated a lot of fireworks injuries over the years - the most common of which are to eyes and hands - though the hospital hasn't seen any yet this week. He thinks the ban still helps because it forces residents to make the extra effort to drive across state borders.

On the rise

Illinois is one of four states in the country that bans fireworks for consumers, largely limiting them to commercial displays by professionals.

"Does it prevent people from getting them? No," Sullivan said. "People who want to blow up fireworks will get them, and they'll pay whatever it takes."

Sullivan said the most important way to prevent fireworks-related injuries is to prevent children from handling them, because many of the patients he's treated fit that category.

The data back him up. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, people ages 15 to 24 have been injured more than any other age group during the past decade. Children ages 5 wto 14 are a close second.

"I think that alone tells you that adults aren't properly supervising the use of fireworks," Sullivan said.

Even sparklers, which Illinois residents can legally buy at retail stores, can cause harm as temperatures can reach 1,200 degrees. According to the state fire marshal's office, sparklers account for about one-fourth of fireworks injuries.

Lisa Bezella, the public education officer for the Schaumburg Fire Department, goes to local schools and talks to children who have been burned by sparklers.

"It's pretty easy for that to happen," Bezella said.

Education and enforcement will continue to be key to decreasing the number of fireworks-related injuries, said Teagan Shull, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal's office. The law is in place to keep the public safe from injuries and fires, she said.

"The biggest misconception is that fireworks are 'safe,'" Shull said in an email. "They are inherently dangerous - in any form."

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