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November 1, 2019

Surgeons urge UK Government to redesign fireworks packaging

A coalition of surgeons has called on the UK Government to issue a policy change to redesign fireworks packaging in order to reduce the number of injuries caused by misuse.

By Deborah Williams

A coalition of surgeons has called on the UK Government to issue a policy change to redesign fireworks packaging in order to reduce the number of injuries caused by misuse.

The coalition of surgeons includes the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), the British Society for Surgery of the Hand (BSSH) and the British Burn Association (BBA).

The fireworks packaging redesign would include mandatory graphic warning images and plain packaging, similar to the designs found on cigarette packaging.  The policy change has also been backed by parents, with almost 70% of those surveyed saying they would support the redesign.

According to the surgeons, 1,936 people visited A&E last year with injuries caused by fireworks, with children 18 and under accounting for 31% of the hospital admissions. The news follows the BAPRAS November 2018 campaign to add graphic warnings to fireworks packaging.

BAPRAS president and consultant plastic surgeon Mark Henley said: “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.”

BSSH president David Newington said: “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.”

In 2002, legislation introduced in Northern Ireland (N.I.) made it illegal for an individual to purchase category two or three fireworks without a license. This legislation saw a fall in the number of fireworks injuries – from 136 in 2001 to 38 in 2002.

Ulster Hospital Belfast consultant plastic Surgeon Alastair Brown said: “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 BBA added: “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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