31 October 2019
Plastic, Hand and Burns surgeons are calling for urgent policy change to reduce the number of injuries caused by firework misuse, which often require costly and complex reconstructive surgery
- They are calling for mandatory graphic warning images and plain packaging for fireworks to warn individuals against misuse
- In the last year alone, 1,936 people visited A&E due to injuries caused by fireworks1
- Children under the age of 18 made-up 31 per cent of hospital admissions due to firework-related injuries2
Ahead of bonfire night, a coalition of UK surgeons from the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH), and the British Burn Association (BBA) are calling on the Government to implement urgently required policy changes to reduce the number of serious injuries caused by the misuse of fireworks.
In the last year alone, 1,936 people visited A&E due to injuries cause by fireworks, with children under the age of 18 accounting for 31 per cent of hospital admissions.1,2 Injuries peak in the winter months, when fireworks are more readily available in supermarkets and stores.
Last November, BAPRAS spearheaded a campaign to raise awareness of firework misuse as a cause of avoidable reconstructive surgery. Based on the experiences of plastic surgeons who have treated these unnecessary injuries, BAPRAS recommend that graphic warning labels similar to those on cigarette boxes should be introduced on firework packaging. This was a change that almost 70% of parents polled said they would support, but which the Government has not yet implemented.3
Mark Henley, Consultant Plastic Surgeon and President of BAPRAS commented:
“Another year has now passed and the Government has failed to take appropriate action to reduce the number of children and young adults who sustain life-changing injuries from the misuse of fireworks. Although packaged as toys, these are serious explosives, and the types of reconstructive surgery being required would not be out of place in a war zone.”
In recent years there has been a positive shift towards more responsible marketing for products which pose a threat to health and wellbeing; including gambling, alcohol, cigarettes and junk food. Despite this, firework packaging continues to echo the visual language of sweets and games – with warnings buried in small boxes on the back of the item – and colourful stalls are often set-up at the front of stores.
David Newington, President of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH), added:
“Hand surgeons see devastating injuries caused by fireworks throughout the winter months, with people often losing large portions of their hand. Providing warnings on all firework packaging would serve as a graphic reminder of the severe yet avoidable damage they can cause. Even sparklers – which are often thought of as safe – can present a significant risk unless used carefully, as they burn at such high temperatures.”
Legislation introduced in Northern Ireland in 2002 requiring an individual to obtain a license to purchase category 2 or 3 fireworks was followed by a significant drop in number of injuries reported (136 in 2001 to 38 in 2002).4 As an interim solution, BAPRAS, BSSH and BBA believe mandatory graphic warning images and plain packaging for fireworks will help warn of potential injuries at the point of use and discourage misuse.
Alastair Brown, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Ulster Hospital, Belfast commented:
"Despite the welcomed decrease in the overall number of fireworks injuries in N.I. following various legislative changes and intense publicity campaigns, we are still seeing patients presenting to the Plastic Surgery Service with potentially devastating life-long injuries. These can have profound effects with respect to function and appearance and the associated psychological implications.
Such injuries are avoidable and often due to misuse and we would appeal to all concerned to handle these explosives with utmost care and respect. The real dangers of inappropriate use must be highlighted to the public and this could include graphic warnings on packaging.”
The British Burns Association commented:
“Fireworks are explosive devices and this must be recognised when they are being used. If they explode incorrectly they can cause severe injury, including loss of fingers, loss of sight, and permanent disfigurement. They should only ever be used in a supervised environment, please be sensible - stay safe.”
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