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Fireworks Accidents Cause Serious Injuries in Mass., N.H.

This article is more than 10 years old.

Three children remain hospitalized at Shriners Hospital in Boston, after a fireworks accident at a Pelham, N.H. home Tuesday night injured 13 people.

Five people have been hurt by fireworks in Massachusetts this week alone, according to state fire marshal Stephen Coan, who says the accidents occurred in Chatham, Hanover and North Brookfield. Other incidents with consumer fireworks, which are illegal in Massachusetts, resulted in fires in Brockton, Lawrence, Tyngsborough, and Ashby.

"A good night can become a tragic evening very quickly" when people set off consumer-grade fireworks, Coan said.

For more on the range of injuries caused by those fireworks, WBUR's Steve Brown spoke with Dr. Colleen Ryan, a staff surgeon at Shriners Hospital for Children and director of the outpatient burn center at Mass. General Hospital.

"The blast injuries can actually cause a hand to be blown off or an eye to be injured," Ryan said. She has treated burns caused by fireworks that have required skin grafts and other surgeries.

Ryan said no distance from consumer fireworks is safe, because they are "so unpredictable." She's particularly concerned about the widespread use of sparklers.

"The parents, they look at me and they say, 'Well, it was just a sparkler,' and it's very difficult to convince people that these are actually dangerous," Ryan said.

"The tip of a sparkler is a very, very hot source. It's over 1,200 degrees. And some of them reach 1,800 degrees. They can cause contact burns when you touch them, even if they're out and they're still hot. They can have little flecks that go into your eye, and the worst case scenario, they can cause a clothing ignition and they can ignite hair."

Over the last decade, Shriners-Boston has treated 97 children for serious burn injuries resulting from fireworks. And, hospital leaders say, 67 percent of patients treated at Massachusetts emergency rooms for severe burn injuries from fireworks over the last nine years were children.

"The anguish that the parents go through is just unparalleled," Ryan said. "They want the child to have a great Fourth of July celebration, and instead it winds up with a disaster."

This program aired on July 5, 2012.

Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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