IOWA CITY — From cuts and burns to shrapnel in the body and severe eye injuries due to extreme heat, Dr. Hans House saw quite a range of injuries related to the use of fireworks over the holiday weekend.
“I was around the hospital and the ER for most of the holiday weekend,” said House, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. “We definitely had more firework related injures than we’ve ever seen before.”
House said he has been working at the Iowa City hospital for about 15 years.
“I’ve often worked the Fourth and around that time, and every time we get one or two injuries — burns, that kind of thing, but nothing close to what we saw this weekend,” he said.
Other area hospitals reported similar findings when it came to fireworks related injuries.
“(The ER) said since June 25 they have had seven injuries related to fireworks, both male and female,” said Sarah Corizzo, senior marketing communications lead at UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. “This is slightly higher than usual.”
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids also reported “an increase since fireworks were legalized of fireworks (related) accidents,” said Karen Vander Sanden, a public relations specialist for the hospital.
At UI Hospitals and Clinics, House said many calls about fireworks related trauma also came in during the holiday.
“We were getting trauma calls just about every couple hours with some sort of firework related injury,” House said, adding he was opposed to the legalization of the sale of fireworks in Iowa.
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“These are explosives, bombs,” he said. “We’ve just legalized and put in the hands of a lot more people explosives. That’s not a good idea. People don’t know how to use them and they are going to mishandle them and there are going to be accidents and that’s exactly what we saw.”
Police officials in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids also were kept busy with fireworks related calls for service.
In Cedar Rapids, officials reported responding to hundreds of calls since the new law took effect on June 1, including 117 calls for service since the beginning of July.
Iowa City officials said police responded to 406 fireworks related calls from June 1 through July 5. That’s up from 32 calls during the same period in 2016.
Alcohol also contributed to the trouble, according to House.
“(With) this being a holiday weekend, people are going to celebrate and drink alcohol,” he said. “The people that we saw were intoxicated in some way.”
House believes that the use of fireworks should be left to the professionals.
“They should also be handled by adults,” House said. “Another thing that we saw, which is very unfortunate, was kids that were injured.”
House implored Iowa legislators to reconsider their decision regarding fireworks sales in Iowa.
“I really think that the legislators should reconsider their decision to legalize fireworks,” House said. “The American College of Emergency Physicians, when this legislation was being discussed, told the government that it was a really bad idea and that we knew there would be problems.
“I think that as we saw this weekend, that’s exactly what happened and we need to reconsider the legalization of these dangerous explosive fireworks.”
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— Lee Hermiston of The Gazette contributed to this report.