Fireworks injuries in Iowa doubled in 2017

Injuries related to fireworks more than doubled in 2017 and were nearly three times as serious, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, College of Public Health, and the UI Injury Prevention Research Center.

The number of children under the age of 18 who were injured while handling fireworks almost doubled, as well. From 2014-2016, in  34 percent of the incidents, on average, the minors were injured while using the fireworks. In 2017, 62.5 percent of the injuries to minors occurred while they were handling the fireworks.

Study background

The Iowa Legislature legalized the sale and use of fireworks in May 2017, allowing two periods – June 1 through July 8, and Dec. 10 through Jan. 3 – for sales and use statewide.

Using data from University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics Emergency Department, researchers compared injuries involving fireworks from June 1 to July 8 in each of the years from 2014 to 2017. Compared to preceding years, 2017 showed significant increases in the number of fireworks-related injuries, the severity of those injuries, the number of minors injured while handling fireworks, and the number of bystanders injured.

The number of fireworks-related injuries between 2014 and 2016 ranged between seven and 10, but then more than doubled to 21 injuries in 2017.

Injuries were serious

Researchers found that 57 percent of patients with fireworks-related injuries required surgery in 2017, compared to 20 percent in each of the three previous years. Additionally, the number of patients requiring admission to the hospital because of their injuries more than doubled, with 48 percent of patients being admitted in 2017, as compared to 20 percent on average in previous years.

The study was launched by Kathleen Romanowski, MD, who was the surgeon on call from July 1-4, 2017, in the UI Hospitals & Clinics Emergency Department.

Discussing her observations with a colleague and other physicians prompted Romanowski and her colleagues to investigate the data on fireworks-related injuries to find out if the increased was real. In addition to Romanowski, researchers for this study include Adam Froehlich, EMT-B, UI Hospitals & Clinics Department of Emergency Medicine; Morgan Bobb, BS, UI College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology; Nicholas Mohr, MD, MS, UI Hospitals & Clinics Department of Emergency Medicine; Karisa Harland, MPH, PhD, UI Hospitals & Clinics Department of Emergency Medicine; Corinne Peek-Asa, MPH, PhD, UI College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology and UI Injury Prevention Research Center; and Michael Takacs, MD, MS, UI Hospitals & Clinics Department of Emergency Medicine.

Illustration of fireworks injuries