Fireworks only safe at shows, groups say

Doctor: ‘Supervision is not enough’ to keep kids safe otherwise.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission annual report on fireworks-related injuries said 9,600 people were seen in emergency rooms last year, up from about 8,600 in 2010. One-quarter of those injured are children under age 15 and 68 percent of the injured are male.

Between 2000 and 2011, 79 people died from fireworks injuries, according to the commission.

Groups including Prevent Blindness Ohio, the state fire marshal’s office and the Ohio Eye Care Coalition held a press conference Wednesday to tell Ohioans that the only safe way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a community show put on by professionals. The rest of the fireworks – including sparklers – should be avoided, they said.

“You can’t launch or light a firework with children standing by and expect them to be safe,” said Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. “Supervision is not enough .”

Fireworks come in novelty, exhibitor and consumer categories. Novelties, such as sparklers and snakes, can be bought, sold and used by anyone.

Exhibitor fireworks require a license. Consumer-class items include bottle rockets, firecrackers and Roman candles; they may be sold by licensed vendors to adults who promise to take them out of state within 48 hours and not set them off in Ohio. But most people use them in Ohio.

 Illegal possession or discharge of fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for first offenses.

Ohio regulates 43 firework wholesalers, 10 makers, 19 shippers and more than 1,000 licensed exhibitors, registered assistants and flame-effect technicians, according to the state fire marshal’s website. The state has had a moratorium on new licenses for more than six years. The fireworks industry lobbies to keep the current laws and moratorium in place in Ohio.

The B.J. Alan Co. Inc. in the Mahoning Valley is a leading importer and wholesaler of fireworks with showrooms in a dozen states and 1,200 temporary stores around July 4. Its owner and chief executive, Bruce Zoldan, is a political donor who gives to state and federal candidates and parties on both sides of the aisle.

Since 1991, he has donated $245,078 to federal candidate and political action committees, according to OpenSecrets.org. And since 2002, he has donated another $205,601 to state candidates and parties, according to Ohio campaign finance records.

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