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Fireworks accidents are a Fourth of July tradition, but do they have to be?

On July 5th, 2021, news broke that Mattis Kivlenieks, the backup goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets, died at a Fourth of July party because of a fireworks accident. It was reported from multiple sources that he was accidentally struck in the chest by a firework mortar, which ultimately led to the Latvian-born player’s demise. He was only 24 years old.

For some, this incident sparked the conversation we seemingly have every single year…

Why do we allow these fireworks accidents to keep taking place?

Why do we light fireworks if we all know they are dangerous and lead to accidents? Sure, 4th of July fireworks are a tradition that spans generations.

But every year we are bombarded with new stories and reports that people misuse fireworks and cause significant damage. Simultaneously, consumer fireworks become legal in more places every year. 46 out of 50 states allow for firework sales and use of some kind. 30 out of 50 states have next to no restriction on what kind of fireworks consumers can buy and use.

Yet fireworks remain destructive in more ways than one. They annually cause personal injury, significant property damage, and they are also harmful to the planet.

Personal injury like that of Mattis Kivlenieks

The tragic story of Mattis Kivlenieks is not the first instance of fireworks causing injury and death. It’s not even the first time a professional athlete was injured or killed by fireworks.

On July 4th, 2015, NFL defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul lost three of the fingers on his right hand from mishandling fireworks. He has since become an influential advocate for firework safety measures. Injuries to hands and fingers are most common, but eye-related injuries are also common and could result in permanent vision loss.

In 2020, The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that fireworks caused around 10,000 injuries to American consumers that required an emergency room visit.

Furthermore, 73 percent of said injuries occurred during the period of June 21, 2019, through July 21, 2019. It should also be noted that 18 firework-related deaths occurred in 2020, which was a 50% increased from the year before.

Fireworks accidents cause property damage

According to The National Fire Protection Association, fireworks cause an estimated 1,300 reported structural fires per year. The average amount of fires caused by fireworks amounts to 43 million dollars worth of property damage annually.

On July 5th, it was reported by Fox 7 Austin that fireworks were the cause of a fire that damaged three homes in the city. The damage is estimated to be worth over 250 thousand dollars.

That is an insane amount of liability stemming from just a single incident. It is true that the majority of property damage caused by fireworks does not total nearly that much. But, it’s very possible that you may be on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of damage if you misuse fireworks.

It is also important to remember that your insurance likely won’t help you if you damage someone else’s property with fireworks. Depending on the firework restrictions of the state you live in, you may not even be covered if you damage your own property with fireworks.

The most important thing to remember is that fireworks accidents are not anomalies. Rather, they are far too common in the United States.

The environmental impact

Finally, it is important to remember that fireworks can cause harm even if handled by professionals.

Fireworks, especially grand firework shows, have been proven to be harmful to the environment. Fireworks release gasses and metal particles upon detonation that contribute to air pollution.

According to a peer-reviewed study, air pollution sours up 42 percent between July 4th and July 5th as a direct result of firework use. Some of the particles released by fireworks never go away. Instead, they become permanent parts of the atmosphere that will be breathed in forever.

This pollution is harmful to people and wildlife in the short term, and then also in the long term. Firework displays are typically held in grassy, open areas where wildlife live.

They are also held over large bodies of water containing marine life. Wildlife is adversely affected by these displays, as breathing in, or directly coming into contact with these chemicals can be lethal.

Honestly, let’s stop it

Firework are dazzling, they are fun, they’re are festive, and they’re part of American tradition. However, they are so dangerous and harmful that it is hardly worth warranting their use and legality.

Every year, especially on Independence Day, people hurt themselves or others. People destroy their property and other people’s property. People further their destruction of the planet for their own selfish festivities.

Perhaps it’s time for technology to take control of our festivities. In China, drone light shows have become an increasingly popular way to celebrate occasions. They are captivating, and also most importantly, harmless to people, animals, and our planet. Maybe it is time for this to be adopted in the United States.

Whether drones do or do not end up being utilized, it is important to realize fireworks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We encourage people to not use firework personally, particularly when with many people.

It is best to leave firework use to professionals. If you do end up using them personally, then please be careful. If you hurt yourself, someone, or something else, don’t say we didn’t warn you. Rest in peace Mattis Kivlenieks.