- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From bottle rocket to homespun explosive, every firework needs a safety buffer, according to new data released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission at a Tuesday morning conference on pyrotechnic hazards.

And officials made their case with a bang.

Firefighters were on standby for the eight demonstrations that followed safety reminders by officials from the CPSC, Customs and Border Protection, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“Putting safety in play means keeping the sparklers, which burn at 2,000 degrees — just like a blowtorch — out of the hands of young children,” said Inez Tenenbaum, CPSC chairman.

Two child mannequins in sundresses showed how the sparkler, common at family gatherings on and around July 4, can ignite clothing fairly easily.

Further advice like “stay away from duds” and “never have your body over a device as you are lighting the fuse” was animated over the Capitol Reflecting Pool grasses by M80s and M1000s that exploded both fruit and statues in haphazard positions.

A firework-burst watermelon scattered about 10 feet in every direction around its display. Adult snappers landed with an unusually loud blow on a cement block.

But the worst offender of the demonstration was the silent but deadly gel fuel. Mrs. Tenenbaum explained the fatal nature of the invisible flame, which is not easily smothered and requires a dry chemical to extinguish.

During the demonstration, a CPSC flammability department engineer looked twice before attempting to douse the suggested ribbon of gel flames, which were only noticeable by brownish burn lines on the white cotton demonstration shirt.

Mrs. Tenenbaum opened the three-speaker panel with data that highlighted injury trends during the months that surround Independence Day and pinpointed burns as the most common firework injury.

Smaller offenders, such as firecrackers and bottle rockets, are blamed for 60 injuries daily while larger explosives, such as professional aerials, tally more than 200 daily injuries. In 2010, fireworks-related injuries sent 8,000 people to the emergency room, with an estimated 50 percent of injuries happening to people under 20 years old.

The statistics and demonstrations served to remind the public that they can minimize the risk of injury by keeping a conscious, handle-with-care attitude. Speakers encouraged continued use of legal pyrotechnics.

“Have tremendous fun with these fireworks,” said Customs and Border Protection Assistant Commissioner Daniel Baldwin. “As long as you do it safely.”