A 25-year-old man is urging people to practice firework safety after a pyrotechnic accident left him blind in one eye.
Rasaan Urquhart’s world was turned upside down after a firework exploded in his face earlier this year. The 25-year-old Philadelphia native was celebrating the Eagles’ Super Bowl in February of this year at a neighbour’s house when someone began lighting fireworks.
When party-goers were having difficulty lighting a firework, Urquhart offered to help. As he approached the firework, it exploded and hit him directly in the face.
“I didn’t feel anything at first, but then all I saw was blood,” Urquhart said in a press release from Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was being treated. “It was a shocker. Right then and there, I knew I was going to be blind right away. I felt a heat sensation like my face was blown off.”
The blast left Urquhart completely blind in his left eye and damaged vision in his right.
The accident has understandably had a serious impact on the father of two, who has been unable to return to work as a volunteer firefighter.
“Knowing that I have two young children – I was scared I was going to jeopardize what I could do with my kids,” he said.
Now, Urquhart has a strong warning for anyone thinking of celebrating this summer’s holidays with fireworks.
“Go out and have fun, but be safe when it comes to fireworks,” he cautioned. “Think about what you’re doing – before you do it.”
The director of the Wills Eye Emergency Department where Urquhart was treated is warning the public of the dangers of fireworks.
“When these devices are burning at around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, store-bought fireworks- including those innocent looking sparklers – can have harmful consequences for your eyesight and cause life-changing injuries,” warned ophthalmologist Ann P. Murchison, MD, MPH.
According tot he American Pyrotechnics Association, fireworks are legal for consumer purchase in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Only three states, Illinois, Ohio and Vermont, allow only wire or wood stick sprinklers to be purchased by consumers, while Massachusetts has banned fireworks for consumer purchase entirely.
Aside from eye safety, doctors warn the public of the dangers of burns to the hands and arms caused by handling fireworks.
“It’s important to take practical safety measures such as following directions on the fireworks themselves and standing far enough away when you are setting them off,” advised Dr. Cassiopeia Roychowdhury, a physician at Penn Sate Health Milton S. Hersey Medical Center.
While most parents would deem them harmless, Roychowdhury noted that a majority of injuries, almost one-third, are caused by handheld sparklers.
Medical professionals are urging the public to protect their hands and faces when using fireworks, to ensure others are kept at a safe distance, and to rely on professional or experienced firework operators whenever possible.
Unsurprisingly, Roychowdhury said alcohol can also play a factor when it comes to firework related injuries.
“Make sure anyone using fireworks is sober and has their wits about them,” she urged in a press release. “You want to be smart about it.”
Should you become injured while handling fireworks, Roychowdhury said some superficial burns (unbroken skin) can be treated at home with over-the-counter treatments and items found in a First Aid kit.
However, any burns to the face, genitals, abdomen or any injuries that involve bleeding should be considered a medical emergency and be treated right away.
The National Council of Fireworks Safety is urging users to wear safety glasses when handling or shooting fireworks, to light only one firework at a time, and to move quickly to a safe distance once fireworks are lit.
Never use fireworks indoors, and only operate away from buildings and vehicles ensuring that a bucket of water or hose is nearby.
Extra attentions should be paid to children when fireworks are present. According to reports, children between the ages of 5 to 9 are 2.4 times as likely to be injured by fireworks as the general population.
Considering the risks involved, it may be best to avoid hosting your own backyard fireworks display. Check online to find a free fireworks display hosted by your town or community, and stay safe as you celebrate the summer holidays!