In 2021, more than 16,000 patients wound up in U.S. hospital emergency rooms due to various injuries sustained while handling or operating fireworks.

At least two-thirds of those injuries took place in the 30-day period surrounding the Fourth of July, according to Dr. Michael Marano, medical director of the Burn Center at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

And while some might tie New Jersey's particular risk to a 2017 loosening of sales requirements for certain fireworks devices, Marano said anything can wind up at a backyard party — and in the wrong hands.

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"These items tend to move from state to state pretty easily, and overall your best bet is to have someone else, an adult, a professional, launch these devices and just enjoy yourself from a distance," he said.

Anything fun has its dangers, Marano said, and children, especially young males, tend to be drawn to things that twinkle, sparkle, or are on fire.

The problem is that on occasion, such devices fail to ignite in the intended manner, and that can signal trouble ahead.

"I think sometimes things that don't seem to be too dangerous can be very dangerous, especially sparklers with small children," Marano said. "For example, sparklers burn very, very hot. They burn over 1,200 degrees sometimes, and we have seen children play with these items and get some pretty serious burns."

But burns, while the most common type of firework injury, are not the only one. Emergency rooms also see lacerations and contusions, according to Marano, with the hands, face, ears, and eyes the most vulnerable.

And Giants football fans may remember the catastrophic hand injury suffered in the summer of 2015 by Jason Pierre-Paul.

JPP's playing career resumed eventually, but Marano said ordinary citizens might not be as lucky.

"Most people wouldn't be able to use a simple computer or play a musical instrument, so those hand injuries are really serious," he said. "Those would be injuries that would be taken care of most likely by reconstructive surgeons."

The goal is to not even get to that point and limit trips to the ER by keeping anyone who is not operating a ground-based fireworks device 35 feet away, and at least 150 feet away from anything launched into the sky at a public display.

If an injury does occur, however, Marano said not to self-diagnose: Get to a medical facility right away.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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