More than one-third of all fireworks-related injuries are caused by shell-and-mortar-style fireworks, making them the most dangerous Fourth of July pyrotechnic on the market, according to a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. The Seattle Times reports approximately 10,500 people in the US are treated for fireworks-related injuries every year, peaking around the Fourth of July. The study looks at 294 cases between 2005 and 2015 in Washington state. The patients were 90% male and the average age was 24. Researchers found 39% of injuries in those cases were related to shell-and-mortar-style fireworks. Adults accounted for most (86%) of all shell-and-mortar injuries, while teens were most likely to be hurt by homemade fireworks and children were most likely to be injured by rockets.
“My hands felt warm,” Mike Spencer says. “I looked at them and just saw red.” Spencer was one of the patients in the study. He lost four fingers after holding a mortar over his head in 2015. Hand injuries—along with brain and face injuries—were most common in incidents involving shell-and-mortar-style fireworks. More than a third of people who suffered a hand injury from a firework had to have at least a partial amputation. And researchers say shell-and-mortar-style fireworks can cause even more serious injuries than illegal fireworks, KIRO reports. “Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Dr. Monica Vavilala says. According to a press release, the next step is to change policy and personal behavior to prevent injuries in the future. (One in every five wildfires is caused by fireworks on the Fourth of July.)