The National Council on Fireworks Safety reported seven fireworks-related deaths during 2008 with an additional 7,000 injuries receiving emergency treatment in U.S. hospitals. During the same 2008 study, about 70 percent of those injuries occurred during the 31 days surrounding the Fourth of July holiday from June 20 to July 20, 2008.
Although Georgia state laws restrict some of the most dangerous types of fireworks, including firecrackers, sky rockets and roman candles, injuries still occur locally, said Director of Emergency Services at Cartersville Medical Center Shaune Fuller-Gonzalez.
"We do see accidents occurring from fireworks -- we see hand and eye injuries a lot relating to fireworks," she said, adding that sparklers and bottle rockets cause many of the accidents. "Sparklers get up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit and they sparkle, so you have little bits flying back, and then they let go of them so they burn their fingers or they put their face too close to them and they burn their eyes or face. Those and bottle rockets, because we have people that shoot bottle rockets at each other."
The 2008 NCFS study found that 800 of the injuries reported were inflicted by sparklers and 300 from bottle rockets. Emergency room on-call physician Jonathan G. Gore M.D. has had multiple experiences working on the Fourth of July holiday weekend and sees every year the damage they can cause when handled improperly.
"I've worked every Fourth of July for the past three summers. It's usually firework related ... for our hospital here, you look at about two to three firework related accidents each year," Gore said.
Fireworks however, are not the leading cause of injuries during the Fourth of July holiday. Alcohol consumption and impaired judgment from substance abuse is the most common factor in holiday injuries seen at CMC.
"The biggest thing is alcohol. Folks are losing their judgment. ... The risk increases by four fold if you're on a boat, if you're doing some kind of activity with your children, if you're doing fireworks -- you can imagine, the risk of someone getting injured if you're drinking is going to go up by at least four fold," Gore said. "Two times out of three, alcohol is involved or some other kind of substance."
Accidents on the road and on the water increase greatly during this summer holiday weekend, hospital personnel said. Boating collisions, drowning and carelessness can occur as a result of drinking while on the water. With the county's access to Lake Allatoona, CMC sees its fair share of water activity accidents on warm holidays.
The number of underage drinking incidents also increases during the Fourth of July. The majority of cases seen in the emergency services department during the holiday weekend are individuals of 20 years old and younger.
"If you're going to drink -- we don't want to advocate that you drink, especially underage drinking -- but stay at home: not boating, not riding, not driving, not operating heavy machinery," said Fuller-Gonzalez, adding that dangers exist just from being on the road with impaired drivers.
She continued by giving advice on staying safe on the Fourth. Her tips include using fireworks only as intended in a well-cleared area, using an extended lighter and preparing hoses or buckets of water to extinguish small fires.
"They're pretty common-sensical things, but I guess in the excitement of it all or in the drinking, we don't think about what we're doing," Fuller-Gonzalez said.