UI doctor cautions against reckless use of fireworks

With the Fourth of July approaching, bystanders need to take care when others are displaying fireworks.


Nick Rohlman

Fireworks are displayed for sale at Sundown Fireworks on Friday, June 29, 2018. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Tian Liu, News Reporter

With the Fourth of July approaching, this year’s firework season is in full swing. Despite fireworks being legal in Iowa, there are still regulations involved in their use to help prevent hazards and injuries.

It has been the third year for people to be able to buy consumer-grade fireworks in Iowa; the state Legislature passed a law allowing licensed retailers to sell them in 2017. But using fireworks in Iowa City is prohibited, and violators will face a minimum $250 fine, according to the city of Iowa City website.

Iowa City Fire Marshal Brian Greer said there are a couple of different types of fireworks. The city separates them into three main types: professional display fireworks, consumer fireworks, and snakes and sparklers. The snakes and sparklers are the only fireworks allowed in city limits.

“[The snakes and sparklers] are still one of those things that people need to be careful [with] when they are around kids,” Greer said.

Sparklers and snakes can hit several hundred degrees while they are burning, he said, and if a person comes in contact with them, they can cause severe burns.

“Before I started to research with those firework injuries, I didn’t understand how dangerous those sparklers were, because I played those when I was a kid,” said Erin Shriver, a UI clinical associate professer of oculoplastics.

She has seen sparklers cause a fair number of finger injuries and some eye injuries, she said.

“Most of the ones I have seen have divisive injuries, whether the people have lost the eye or have significantly lost vision because of the injury, ” Shriver said.

Being a bystander to a fireworks display is also dangerous at times, Shriver said. Around 47 percent of all fireworks injuries occur to those who are bystanders or observes of firework shows, according to data she provided.

“[Fireworks] are pretty simple to shoot. I think it’s people making bad decisions,” said Travis Allen, the owner of Sundown Fireworks in Williamsburg.

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Consumers must be 18 to buy fireworks, Allen said. He tries to train consumers on how to safely put fireworks up and how many can be shot off.

“Here is the safety stuff you can do to make safety for your family or guests,” said Allen.

Shriver said the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages wearing protective eyewear, something most people don’t think about too much.

“I started wearing eyewear if I went to a small-town show,” Shriver said. “Because of the larger fireworks displays usually farther away. But if you are going to be closer, I think that’s something that’s worth thinking about.”

She also highlights the statement from the American Academy of Ophthalmology that of the 11,000 injuries that occurred in 2013, 1 of 6 were injuries to the eyes.

“The small family display is about 70 percent of the injuries,” Shriver said. “That’s the majority of them in the small family, not the professional.”

There will be firework shows in Coralville on July 4 at 9:45 p.m. at S.T. Morrison Park and in Iowa City on July 5 at 9:30 p.m. at the Old Capitol.