116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
While dozens were treated at Eastern Iowa hospitals over the weekend for fireworks-related injuries, this year’s holiday brought fewer emergency incidents than previous years, local providers say.
However, it’s unclear what might be driving the local decline in injuries due to fireworks, such as burns or abrasions on hands or eyes. In recent years, as fireworks-related hospital visits increased, providers also have reported severe damage that resulted in amputated fingers or permanent vision loss.
UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids saw two fireworks-related injuries over the holiday weekend, but none were severe. By comparison, the emergency room reported five injuries at the same time last year. Mercy Medical Center, also in Cedar Rapids, reported one firework injury over the holiday, and it was not severe. Last year, the hospital also one injury.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics officials anticipated injuries would be down at their system as well, but officials are still tallying the total from the weekend, said spokeswoman Laura Shoemaker.
Anecdotally, it appeared that fewer patients were arriving at UIHC’s emergency department with injuries from fireworks, according to Dr. Matthew Negaard, an emergency medicine physician there.
“The patient volume was not like it was last year,” he said.
Police see different trends in calls
Police in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids saw different trends in fireworks-related calls about people illegally setting off fireworks. Detonating consumer fireworks inside those cities is illegal and can result in stiff fines.
Iowa City saw an increase in calls of service, but over the past two years, Cedar Rapids saw a decline, according to police data.
Iowa City police responded to 154 fireworks-related calls for service so far in 2022, said public information officer Lee Hermiston. That compares with the 111 fireworks-related police calls in 2021 and 160 calls in 2020.
Cedar Rapids police, however, saw a decline in the number for fireworks-related calls for service this year compared with previous years. This year, there were 553 calls for service related to fireworks through July 4, said public safety spokesman Mike Battien. That’s a decrease from both 2021 and 2020, police data shows. In 2021, there were 705 calls for service through July 4 and 795 calls for the total calendar year.
There were 1,096 firework calls up until July 4, 2020, in Cedar Rapids and a total of 1,232 calls for service for the full calendar year.
The number of citations Cedar Rapids police issued also declined, police data shows. This year, there were 12 citations as of July 4. By comparison, there were 18 citations for calendar year 2021 and 42 citations for calendar year 2020.
Two fires from Monday are currently under investigation by the Cedar Rapids police, but Battien said it’s too early to determine whether it was fireworks-related.
Injuries nationwide trended down
Nationwide, about 11,500 individuals sought treatment for fireworks-related injuries in 2021, according to an annual report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has not issued its 2022 report yet. Of that total, about 8,500 came to emergency rooms between June 18 and July 18 of that year.
That’s a decline from the estimated 15,600 people who went to a hospital in 2020, according to the commission. That year marked the most harmful year for Americans in the past 15 years for fireworks-related injuries.
A study from UIHC researchers found Iowa’s two largest trauma centers saw fireworks-related injuries more than double in the two-year period after the Iowa Legislature legalized the sale of fireworks in May 2017. In addition, the severity of injuries increased, with injuries to children nearly tripling, according to the study.
A combined total of 107 firework injuries were reported at UIHC and UnityPoint Health-Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines from mid-2017 to 2019. Between 2014 and the first half of 2017 — before the law passed — the combined total was 43, according to the report.
But for patients under the age of 18, the number of injuries rose from 11.3 to 30.8 percent after fireworks sales were legalized, researchers found.
Since May 2017, 18 percent of fireworks injuries required amputation, mostly fingers. By comparison, in the three years before legalization, there were no amputations recorded at the two hospitals.
Individuals should take precautions when lighting fireworks at their Independence Day gatherings, including wearing protective eye gear and keeping bystanders out of the way. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says children should never be allowed to play with or light fireworks, and parents should use caution even when giving their children sparklers.
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