Thursday, July 09, 2015
No doubt you have heard of the latest Darwin Award winner (award not yet official) who removed himself from the gene pool by launching a firework off his head. Then there are two NFL players, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and Bucs cornerback C.J. Wilson who lost fingers to fireworks this July 4. It was less well-publicized, but there was a second Darwin Award winner whose preferred launch pad was his chest.
So this got me to wondering exactly how big of a public health problem this really is. Well, that's kind of a subjective question. It seems more than 11,000 ER visits each year result from consumer fireworks along with more than 18,000 fires (mostly brush fires but 1,200 structural fires and 400 vehicle fires) causing $32 million in damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association, drawing on mostly government stats.
That sounds like a pretty heavy toll but it's a big country. It pales in comparison with motor vehicle injuries, obviously (2.5 million ER visits, and counting lost work and lifetime medical costs, well over $50 billion in direct costs. Also, of course, almost 34,000 deaths).
The significance of fireworks injuries and damage is therefore sort of imponderable. We don't have a denominator, i.e. how many people use consumer fireworks and how often, so I can't compute the individual risk for people who do. And you may feel that you're not a doofus and that it's probably doofitude (likely alcohol enhanced) that results in the majority of unfortunate events. I have no way of knowing how true this is either.
But, this is a fairly frivolous activity. There are safer ways to entertain yourself and you can always go to the professional display and mingle with your townspeople. So I would ask, is it worth it? As for legal restrictions, I think that too some extent you have the right to be a doofus but most injuries are to children, which does cut strongly against the libertarian point of view here. I am not personally inclined to make a cause out of this but you might want to just throw a frisbee instead.