The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) wants the public to be safe during the Fourth of July. Understanding the dangers associated with illegal or improperly used/manufactured fireworks can prevent severe injuries, disfigurement, or even death.
Illegal devices are not fireworks, but are often manufactured and used during the fireworks season. These devices are made up of explosive compositions that are typically extremely sensitive to heat, shock, electrostatic discharge and friction that may initiate unexpectedly causing serious injury or death. The risks associated with these devices are further compounded, because the persons manufacturing, transporting and using these devices often do not have the knowledge, skills, and experience required for such activities.
ATF is the federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing federal explosives laws and works with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with state and local agencies, through their fireworks enforcement/safety programs to provide a safe environment for the public regarding the use of these products.
Suggested safety tips when using fireworks include:
- Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
- Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don't realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees, hot enough to melt some metals.
- Never place any part of your body directly over a firework device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them in metal/glass containers.
- After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
- Make sure fireworks are legal in your area. Check your state laws and with your local ordinances before buying or using them.
Many law enforcement agencies consider these explosive devices, commonly referred to as M-80s, M-100s, quarter sticks, cherry bombs, and silver salutes illegal, because they exceed the CPSC's explosive weight limits for consumer fireworks. Additionally, these devices may also be illegal under similar state laws and local ordinances.
Average Size: 5/8-inch diameter, 1-inch long.
Average Load: approximately 3 grams explosive mixture.
Risk Factor: Damage to fingers, hands, and eyes.
M-100, Silver Salute
Average Size: 1-inch diameter, 2-inches long.
Average Load: approximately 9 grams explosive mixture.
Risk Factor: Severe damage to face, arms and body.
Average Size: 1-inch diameter, 3-inches long.
Average Load: approximately 13 grams explosive mixture.
Risk Factor: Severe crippling, disfiguring injuries.
M-1000, Quarter Stick
Average Size: 1-inch diameter, 6-inches long.
Average Load: approximately 25-30 grams explosive mixture.
Risk Factor: Extremely severe injuries to body, has caused death.
It should be noted that many legitimate commercial fireworks manufactures advertise and sell products labeled like those shown above; but all are limited to 50 milligrams of composition regardless of the cardboard tube size, and they meet the CPSC requirements for consumer fireworks.
Each year ATF investigates explosives accidents involving the manufacture of explosive devices such as these. These accidents often result in serious bodily injury or death, and extensive damage to property. ATF cautions the public against handling suspected illegal explosive devices and urges everyone to report the manufacture or sale of such devices to their local ATF office or by calling ATF's toll-free hotline at 1-888-ATF-BOMB (1-888-283-2662).