DEAR ABBY: Each year on the Fourth of July, thousands of adults and children are seriously injured by fireworks. Many burns and injuries affect eyesight, permanently damaging, and in some cases, blinding the victims. Because of this, the American Optometric Association has joined the Millennium Fireworks Safety Partners, a coalition of 35 national organizations, in urging people to avoid private fireworks and instead enjoy professional displays.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 20 percent to 25 percent of firework injuries are to the eyes. In a special study of fireworks-related injuries covering the period June 23 to July 23, 1999, CPSC reports that there were 6,300 emergency room-treated injuries, most involving fireworks, rockets and sparklers. Forty percent of the victims were under 15 years of age, and about 75 percent were males.
Sparklers are the second most frequent cause of fireworks injuries that result in trips to the emergency room. In addition to potential burns, a sparkler can literally "poke someone's eye out."
Please be careful this Fourth of July. Protect your precious eyesight by avoiding fireworks at home. Enjoy professional displays from a safe distance. -- HARVEY P. HANLEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION
DEAR DR. HANLEN: The statistics you quoted are alarming, and thank you for the warning.
The loss of a finger, an eye or a life would turn a happy holiday into a tragedy. Readers, please celebrate the Fourth of July safely by attending professional fireworks displays and forgo setting off your own.