Americans love blowing up fireworks, but can they handle them?

It wasn’t all this pretty.
It wasn’t all this pretty.
Image: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Over the July 4th weekend, many Americans celebrated the country’s independence with a tradition seemingly as American as apple pie: by shooting off fireworks.

With those celebrations came reports of gruesome accidents caused by mishandling fireworks. NFL football star Jason Pierre-Paul was hospitalized after a fireworks-related accident that required amputating his right index finger and surgery to address a fracture of his right thumb, according to ESPN. (Pierre-Paul once saved a Giants game by blocking a game-tying field goal with the amputated finger.) Nonetheless, Pierre-Paul is expected to play this season, according to ESPN.

NFL player C.J. Watson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two fingers amputated from a similar fireworks accident. Details aren’t available of what exactly went wrong in either case.

In Maine, a 22-year-old died on July 4 after attempting to set off a firework on top of his head. The death is apparently the first caused by fireworks in Maine since the state legalized them in 2012.

Fireworks-related injuries have been on the rise as more US states legalize fireworks sales to the public. After Georgia and New York legalized fireworks this year, fireworks remained banned in only three states, down from over 30 states in the 1990s, according to the Christian Science Monitor. As more states have legalized the sale and use of fireworks among the general public, other states have hopped on board, for fear of losing tax revenues to other states when residents cross the border to neighboring states to buy them.

Fireworks laws vary from state to state, with some only allowing their use during fireworks-related holidays like July 4th and New Years Eve.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, in 2013 US emergency rooms treated an estimated 11,400 people for fireworks-related injuries, up from 7,000 in 2008 (pdf).

Meanwhile, sales of consumer fireworks have more than doubled over the past 16 years, from $285 million in 1998 to $695 million in 2014, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, and they’re expected to keep climbing (pdf).