Erasmus MC Press Release Rotterdam, 13 December 2018
Boys under 18 and bystanders most likely to be injured by fireworks
Reliable investigation of fireworks injuries at New Year’s Eve 2017/2018
Public debate on banning consumer fireworks flares up every year because of the risk of injury and other health damage. However, there was not a reliable and clear record of firework injuries. Hospitals in the southwest region of the Netherlands started recording these injuries around New Year’s Eve 2017/2018 and published their findings in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (The Dutch Journal of Medicine). Particularly boys under 18 and bystanders were found to be injured, mainly by legal fireworks. 

Researchers from the Maasstad Hospital’s Burns Unit, the Rotterdam Eye Hospital, and Erasmus MC’s Trauma department conducted an extensive and comprehensive study on fireworks injuries caused by consumer fireworks for the first time this year. A total of 63 fireworks victims were treated in one of twelve hospitals in the southwest region of the Netherlands in December 2017 and January 2018. Detailed and objective information on the kind of injury, how the injury had occurred, the treatment, and the long-term effects was collected for 54 of the victims.

The vast majority of the victims were male (93%), and the average age was 15. 25 of the victims (46%) were bystanders, and 12 people (22%) were injured by illegal fireworks. Of the 54 patients, 50 were injured by firecrackers (n = 22) or display fireworks (n = 28). The 54 patients included in the study had a total of 79 injuries; in 29 cases (37%) the injuries were to the arms or hands, and in 19 cases (24%) to the eyes. Injuries to the arm or hand consisted mainly of burns (69%), principally second-degree burns.  Eye injuries were caused by blunt force explosions in 14 cases, by chemical burns in 7 cases, and in one case the eye was penetrated. Three patients were indirectly injured by firework.

Research physician Daan van Yperen says: “We hope that the data that we are collected in all the hospitals in the southwest trauma region of the Netherlands, will provide objective information for the public and political debate on possibly banning consumer fireworks, thereby reducing the number of firework victims in the future.”

The long-term outcomes and the costs associated with the injuries are currently being collected and will be published next year. The costs will include the direct medical costs as well as indirect social costs. The patients will be monitored for a year so as to obtain a reliable estimate of the actual costs.

The debate on whether or not to ban consumer fireworks flares up every year, especially in December. The Dutch Safety Board stated last year that safety gains can be obtained by a shift in the way we deal with the problems associated with New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands. In the opinion of the Board, the physical injuries sustained by people from consumer fireworks does not fit in with the intended festive character of New Year’s Eve. The Board estimates that about 480 people are injured, with damage to an average of 200 eyes. The additional costs of fireworks incidents are also high: apart from the direct costs of the treatment and rehabilitation, the costs associated with absenteeism can also be very high.

Erasmus MC is the largest University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Our primary goal is a healthy population. Nearly 13,000 employees devote themselves every day to providing outstanding care, facilitating world-class education and conducting pioneering research. These professionals are instrumental in developing expertise on health and illness. They link the latest scientific insights to practical treatments and prevention measures to provide maximum benefit to patients and to enable healthy people to stay healthy longer. Being visibly better and leading the way in the areas of complex, innovative and acute care by collaborating with others: these are key ambitions at Erasmus MC.