Every year, many Americans celebrate Independence Day with food, get-togethers and sometimes, fireworks. But no matter what kinds of fireworks are used, they are extremely dangerous, Prevent Blindness Arizona warns.

Firecrackers can explode prematurely and rockets can take unexpected flight paths. And, according to the U.S. Eye Injury Registry, bystanders are more often injured by fireworks than operators themselves. No one knows that better than the Shannon family.

When Michael Shannon was just three years old, he attended a family reunion with his parents.  During the festivities, someone lit a legal, aerial firework device which accidentally tipped over and fired straight at Michael, who was standing with his father more than 40 feet away. Before father or son could react, the missile struck Michael in the head, causing an open skull fracture and a severe burn to his brain. The damage was not only excruciatingly painful, but also caused him to lose his sight.

Michael’s family brought him to the emergency room immediately, but Michael died the following the day. Now, Michael’s father, Jack, has become a steadfast supporter of consumer fireworks bans, and he hopes to educate the public on how dangerous they can be.

“My son not only lost his sight, he lost his life to fireworks,” said Shannon. “For Michael’s sake, and the sake of others, my family is speaking out about the dangers of fireworks, hoping that the public and our policy-makers will take action and stop the unnecessary suffering caused by these dangerous devices.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that 6,500 people were treated in emergency rooms across the country due to accidents caused by fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to the latest data from 2005. There were 10,800 firework-related injuries for the entire year, an increase of 1,400 injuries from 2004.

Many of those injured were children. In fact, 45 percent of all fireworks injuries are to those aged 15 and younger. Most injuries are to the hands and fingers, but 1,600 were eye injuries, including contusions and lacerations, debris in the eye and burns. Some eye injuries result in permanent vision loss.

“There are no such things as ‘safe fireworks.’ Even sparklers can burn up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Drew S. Daley of Prevent Blindness Arizona. “Adults who played with fireworks as kids without incident can’t guarantee that their children won’t be injured.”

In 2005, there were 500 children under the age of 5 who were hurt by sparklers. In fact, sparklers accounted for half of all fireworks injuries to children in that age group.

Prevent Blindness Arizona, the nation’s oldest eye health and safety organization, urges everyone to leave fireworks to the professionals this year. Many communities offer spectacular displays to the public, free of charge.

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