The Numbers Behind Fireworks – Math Could Save A Finger or Two

I certainly hope everyone enjoyed their 4th of July celebrations. I know I had a lovely time at the beach with my husband and friends. And, as we were at the shore, naturally we, along with hundreds of our ‘closest’ beach-going celebrants, headed down to the oceanfront with our chairs to enjoy a multitude of firework displays put on by five different beach cities. It was actually really nice because you can see all these shows, with some closer than others depending on where you are, and they are timed so you can see the end of one as another is beginning – about an hours worth of city-sponsored fireworks. At one point in time, I saw our cities show and in the background, with 3 other shows at varying distances away (due to the curve of the shore). I did try to capture it on film, but it was night – with a phone – so not the best of pictures!

While we were waiting, again with hundreds of others on the beach for a good many miles, there were those folks who brought along their own fireworks – sparklers for the children, high-grade fireworks firing off – all in all, very impressive and very scary. Especially as the bangs went off, and the ones on the ground smoked away with children running all around – and then there was the falling ‘sparks’ and debris from those larger ones set off by the water landing on folks all around (setting off some screams). The city firework displays are all set off on barges out on the water, done by professionals. Not so much the ones being set off on the shore – right around hundreds of people. While it was all good and fun, and everyone was celebrating the birth of our nation, it was actually a little frightening as well – considering how many of the ‘fireworks’ almost exploded right by us or went towards the houses instead of out to the water….

Naturally, as is my way, I felt the need to look up some numbers. The National Fire Protection Agency has research numbers specific to fireworks. And it’s kind of frightening really. Perhaps the most frightening one is the sparklers, which all the children were running around with and what I believe most people feel are fairly harmless. This little temperature graph might make you feel a bit differently. We are afraid to let children near pots of boiling water or get too close to a fire, yet we let them run around with sparklers in their hands that are burning at 1200 degrees, almost 6 times hotter than boiling water.  WOW!  That’s an eye opener.  And, as a result, according to the NFPA, sparklers account for more than 1/4 of emergency room fireworks injuries – and who is it that is usually walking around with those sparklers – young children. Just to frighten you a little more with the numbers, the circle graph to the right shows the types of injuries that occur – notice, hand & fingers have the highest chance of injuries, with head and eyes tied for second. Again – think of those kids running around with the sparklers……

If we explore the data a little more, we find some interesting statistics:

So – makes sense, if we look at the graph on the right and the graph in the middle, that because sparkler related injuries are the most prevalent, that kids 5-9 have the highest risk for injury since they tend to be the ones running around with those sparklers. But notice in the circle graph to the left that ages 25-44 actually had more reported injuries, which, based on my own experiences and observations, also makes sense when you look at the type of fireworks that are causing the injuries (graph to the right) after sparklers – illegal firecrackers, small firecrackers, those with re-loadable shells. In other words, this is what ‘the dads’ are doing or the ‘adults’ or, as evidenced last night, the large group of college-age kids. They are the ones setting off the big, scary fireworks on the beach – and getting injured more.

Obviously, not many people think about statistics when planning for some fun on the 4th of July (or New Years or other firework-worthy celebrations). It’s about the fun. But – my guess, especially with parents of younger kids who don’t see the harm of those little sparklers – if you showed them some statistics, especially that temperature graph with sparklers at the top, there might be some reconsidering of the ‘playing with fireworks’ mentality. Math could save a couple of fingers…..

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