What are fireworks? What is a fireworks show? Why am I asking such a silly question on the eve of the fourth of July, one of our countries most lavish and revered public displays of noise and light?
Fireworks have been documented as far back as the 12th century, where they were used in China to both frighten away evil spirits and as a prayer for happiness. In America, fireworks even predated the American Independence that they have come to represent. The displays have become more scientific since then, bigger, more colorful and louder fireworks have become the norm. Within the fireworks professional communities, Pyrotechnicians have dedicated themselves to safer displays (often borne of tragedy) for these amazing ceremonies, to the point where injuries or loss of life at professional events have been largely curtailed. Disneyland, for example, started launching fireworks with compressed air a few years ago, instead of the traditional gunpowder, and found it lead to better timing and accuracy.
Fireworks in the home, however, are a different story. The average person in our country gains education about fireworks from personal experience and reading instructions on a package rather than formal education, and often entrust their judgement in this education to the use of smaller pyrotechnics when handing them off to children and friends. Herein lies the problem. Let’s look this year at a very specific, very serious misuse of one particular pyrotechnic, the Sparkler.
As a consumer firework, Sparklers are one of the most common devices handed off to young children on the fourth of July. By all appearances it seems relatively benign, a stick throwing off bright lights and a shower of sparks when lit. These sparklers are responsible for some horrendous burn injuries among children however, simply because they seem so harmless. I want to go over some interesting comparisons between Sparklers and some common sense heat sources you keep children away from in the home for safeties sake, compiled by the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance.
Children and matches don’t mix, everyone agrees with this. A match burns at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (we’ll use Fahrenheit for all of our numbers in this article from now on), but a Sparkler burns hotter than that match. Pizzas cook in your oven at about 425-450 degrees, and we keep children from playing with or around ovens because of the burn risk, right? Guess what-Sparklers burn hotter than your oven too. Let’s take a jaunt to a factory that melts glass, which is 900 degrees. Are we there yet?
Not yet. In fact, Sparklers burn hotter than temperatures needed to melt that glass, or even aluminum-which melts at 1200 degrees. If we still aren’t hot enough for you, then let’s give away the correct answer. A lit Sparkler burns at up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, four times the heat needed to cook your pizza! Yet this awesome heat is contained in a small stick being held by a little child not old enough in some cases to use the bathroom yet. It should be a little clearer now how these injuries have occurred year after year among children. Many times it’s just that you haven’t run the numbers in a way that you can relate to as responsible and loving adults. So now we’ve crunched those numbers, let’s think about our kids this Fourth of July, and keep them safe.
Sparklers aren’t for children with adult supervision. They’re for adults only, just like an oven, or matches. Keep your children safe, and celebrate the holidays responsibly.