The state of firework laws and injury tracking [poster]
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Background: Fireworks are both hugely popular and dangerous consumer products. Although national data indicates that injuries have been decreasing, such data cannot be extrapolated to the individual state level where these materials are regulated. We sought to explore differences in state laws, recent changes to those laws, mechanisms in place at the state level to track fireworks-related injuries, and, if possible, any correlation between the liberalization of firework laws and injury levels. Methods: Firework laws were reviewed for 50 states and the District of Columbia to examine current laws as well as relevant changes from 2000 – 2015. Fire Marshals and Departments of Health of states that were noted to have liberalized laws were contacted to obtain injury data, if available, and an attempt was made to describe the trend of injury rates over the timeframe of regulation loosening. Results: Currently, 43 states and DC allow some or all consumer fireworks, up from 32 states and DC in 1999. The number of states that allowed only sparklers and novelty items decreased from six to four. The number of states banning all fireworks decreased from ten to three. Overall, 14 states have liberalized their firework laws to some degree since 2000. Thirteen of these states responded to inquiries. Of those, seven states had no system in place to track injuries related to fireworks. Of the remaining six states, four showed an increasing trend in injuries, although one did not track data prior to the law change. Two states admitted that injury data was tracked, but that the data quality was poor due to unreliable reporting. Conclusion: The national rate in firework injuries has been decreasing, with a 30.4% fewer pediatric injuries from 1990 – 2014 based on then National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The American Pyrotechnic Association has touted improved safety numbers, particularly on an injury per consumption level, which it attributes to improved safety education efforts. While encouraging, our preliminary work regarding states that have relaxed regulations reveals sporadic state oversight and, when available, a concerning trend in reported injuries related to these dangerous consumer products. The exact influence of specific law changes is difficult, especially given the role that border state laws and even holiday weather play on firework usage. Applicability of Research to Practice: Fireworks cause thousands of injuries annually. Attention to these injuries at the state level, especially in the time frame surrounding law changes, would help to elucidate the unintended consequences of decreased regulation and potentially advise future legislative changes.