Iowa’s new firework law went into effect this past May, allowing the sale of fireworks in the state during specific time periods. Since then, firework-related injuries at Iowa’s largest trauma hospital have more than doubled—to 21 such injuries.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) Department of Emergency Medicine, along with UI IPRC and the UIHC Department of Surgery recently released a report comparing firework-related injuries before the new law (2014 – 2016) and after the law.
In their review of electronic health records, the team also found that after the law went into effect, firework injuries were more severe, and more young people and bystanders were injured.
See the report: Legal Consumer Fireworks in Iowa Corresponds with a Dramatic Uptick in Injuries.
This past June and July was the first time consumers purchased fireworks within state lines since the 1930s. Soon, from December 10th to January 3rd, consumers will once again be able to purchase fireworks in Iowa. Counties and municipalities are able to restrict firework sales locally, and some ban the use fireworks.
“Cities should consider the results of this study as they think about what firework-related practices are best for their communities,” said Dr. Kathleen Romanowski from the UI Department of Surgery, who is one of the co-authors on the study.
Burns were the most common injury for all years, followed by tissue trauma and fractures. Those patients requiring surgery increased from 20% in 2014 — 2016 to 57% in 2017. Bystanders were four times more likely to require surgery and be admitted to the hospital in 2017 compared to previous years.
Only 12% of patients were minors before the law compared to 38% after the law. After the law, the majority of minors with firework injuries were firework handlers (63%), rather than bystanders. The average age of the firework injury patient decreased from 35 to 24 years old. Men were affected the most both before (68%) and after the law (81%).
The research team made the following recommendations:
- Establish safety campaign messages to alert all potential fireworks handlers and bystanders of hazards
- Fund research to examine statewide data
- Establish a firework sales/injury surveillance system with annual reporting of trends
- Explore options for targeted interventions for high risk populations
- Engage stakeholders such as the Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Fire Marshal to prioritize prevention approaches.