Health
5:30 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

As the 4th of July Nears, Medical Experts Warn of Danger Posed by Fireworks

Every year thousands of people across the U.S. are injured by fireworks. The vast majority of those injuries occur between June 18 and July 18. Law enforcement officials and doctors warn that even seemingly harmless fireworks you can buy from road-side stands are explosive devices and can be dangerous.

Earlier this year Allentown resident Coleen Gedid lit what she thought was a red, white and blue candle she'd found in a junk drawer. It turned out to be a firework. She suffered serious injuries to the left side of her body, and is now trying to raise awareness about the dangers of fireworks.

"Don't never light anything. Leave it to the professionals, because this is horrendous pain. I lost all my fingers and I have a little stump of a thumb and I don't ever want anyone to go through it," she said.

Officers from Pittsburgh Police showcased Friday how destructive some fireworks can be by putting them into an apple, a cantaloupe, and a watermelon. The apple was blown apart; the cantaloupe and watermelon were pretty much decimated. They said the effects on the human body can be just as destructive.

"Typically you see numerous facial injuries, eye injuries, lacerations, and besides the face, the other most commonly injured part is the hand. Hand amputations, hand lacerations — we see forearm amputations, devastating injuries," said Dr. Jenny Ziembicki, medical director UPMC Mercy Burn Services.

Still, every year people flock to stock up on the explosives, even though many of them are illegal.

"You're not allowed to light anything that makes a bang or lifts off the ground. Sparklers are OK. Anything that makes a loud bang or has some type of motion or lifts off the ground, like a bottle rocket, they're illegal," said Detective Carlos Schrader with the Pittsburgh Police Bomb Squad.

Doctors at UPMC Mercy point out that all injuries caused by fireworks are 100% preventable. They said fireworks are best left to the professionals, and urged Pittsburghers to take in a professional display instead of lighting your own.