Federal Safety Regulators Say 43 Percent of Tested Fireworks Are Illegal. God Bless America.

Fireworks consumption is at record levels even as fireworks injuries fall.


Fourth of July is almost upon us, which means that it's time for America's safety regulators to do what they do every year: plead in vain for Americans to use their illegal fireworks responsibly.

Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)—known for its "will she, won't she" comments on banning gas stoves—released its annual report on fireworks use and injuries. Historically, about 75 percent of fireworks injuries occur within a month of the Fourth of July holiday. The agency is trying to get ahead of the mayhem with warnings about just how dangerous these products can be.

"Fireworks are beautiful to watch, but they can be deadly when mishandled or misused, or if the fireworks themselves contain illegal components," said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric in a press release. "I urge everyone to use care around fireworks, only use fireworks labeled for consumer use, and always keep children far away from fireworks, including sparklers. We want everyone to have a fun and safe celebration."

That's easier said than done. According to CPSC's report, 43 percent of fireworks tested by the agency in 2022 included illegal components, including "fuse violations, presence of prohibited chemicals, burnout or blowout, and pyrotechnic materials overload."

The commission's report says that this is significantly higher than past years. In general, people are consuming way more fireworks as well. The American Pyrotechnics Association reports that 436 million pounds of consumer fireworks were bought in 2022, a historic high and nearly double the rate of pre-pandemic firework consumption.

That hasn't left the country worse for wear. There were an estimated 10,200 fireworks injuries in the country in 2022. That's a decrease in real terms from the 11,500 injuries in 2021 and the staggering 15,600 reported in 2020 (when blowing up fireworks kept people entertained during a summer of lockdowns and government-mandated social distancing).

CPSC found there were 3.1 firework injuries per 100,000 people in 2022, slightly above the 3 injuries per 100,000 reported in 2019.

At this point, the CPSC may be reminding you of the Declaration of Independence's complaints about "swarms of officers" that "harrass our people, and eat out their substance." But for the record: Yes, consumer-facing explosives can be dangerous. In 2022, 11 people died from fireworks injuries. Those included people killed while manufacturing their own fireworks and at least three people (including an 11-year-old boy) who died while holding motors on or near their heads.

Some caution is advisable.

Nevertheless, the fact that Americans can't get enough of blowing up (often illegal) stuff and are doing more and more of it every Independence Day shows that the spirit of 1776 is alive and well. A straight line of gun-powder-scented chaotic energy runs from our revolutionary forebearers right up to today's patriotic pyromaniacs.

The Declaration of Independence itself was a bold, daring, and certainly just act. It was also a risky one considered illegal by the authorities of the day.

It's fitting, then, that we continue to replicate their messy embrace of freedom by flouting the laws of our modern-day George IIIs and blowing up a small piece of the new nation they created.

(Please, for the love of God, do not fire off mortars while holding them on your head.)