Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

ER Doctor Sees It Every Fourth: 'Devastating Injuries' from Fireworks

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

ER Doctor Sees It Every Fourth: 'Devastating Injuries' from Fireworks

Article excerpt

Dr. Bruce Kraemer always volunteers to work on the Fourth of July. The chief of plastic surgery at St. Louis University Hospital knows his services will be needed for people injured by fireworks.

Each year, more than 11,000 Americans are treated in hospitals for fireworks injuries, almost all in the month surrounding Independence Day. Most of the injuries are burns to the hands or face.

Last year's holiday was the worst Kraemer has seen in 30 years. Three people came to the hospital with traumatic injuries when fireworks exploded in their hands. The patients lost a total of 10 fingers among them.

"It's astounding that people are holding these things and then the fireworks blow up," Kraemer said. "These are devastating injuries."

The number of fireworks injuries has not changed significantly in the last decade, but Kraemer thinks fireworks have gotten more explosive.

"These are some very intense blasts, significant firepower in these things that people can now get," he said.

Most injuries happen from misuse (lighting fireworks in the hand, pointing them at people) or from malfunction (tip-overs, errant flight paths), according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fireworks or firecrackers with reloadable shells cause the most injuries.

Backyard parties are the most common site for injuries, but each year people also are hurt at public displays when fireworks shoot toward a crowd or embers fall on the onlookers. Fireworks caused four deaths in the country last year.

The consumer agency recently recalled "TNT Red, White, & Blue Smoke" fireworks that contain three cardboard canisters in a package after three people reported burns from using the product. The fireworks were sold at Target and Walmart stores in Illinois in May and June for about $5.

James Nevitt of St. Louis spent $950 on fireworks last summer and didn't want any to go to waste, including a yardstick-sized rocket that seemed to be broken.

"Instead of me throwing the stuff in the trash, I lit one of the tops of the rockets, and it went off in my hand," Nevitt said.

When the rocket exploded, it burned Nevitt's stomach, chest and neck. When he looked down at his hand, it was in tatters. …

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