Another Fourth of July holiday has passed, and again, it was an explosive one. I’m talking about the sky in your neighborhood, of course.
Michigan started allowing commercial-grade fireworks to be sold direct-to-consumer in 2011, with the passing of the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act. It was signed into law by former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, and took effect in 2012.
The law established certain windows that allow residents to set off these fireworks, including New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, and of course, Independence Day weekend. It seems like most people abide by these time frames.
In 2018, an amendment to the fireworks law was passed, giving local government entities the right to restrict the days and times for their residents to use consumer fireworks by enacting a local ordinance. Most didn’t take advantage of this. And even if they did, the state law would supersede local ordinance in most cases.
This year, like most years in the last decade, brought another wave of fireworks-related injuries, deaths and property damage, not just in Michigan, but across states with access to large fireworks.
And like every year since the new law started, Michigan residents flocked to social media to air their grievances about the loud booms keeping them up all night -- and keeping their dog hiding under the bed. (There’s even a petition with 40,000+ signatures to repeal the law)
It’s worth asking: Does anyone actually support the current fireworks law, as it stands? Should we make some changes? Does the economic benefit outweigh the physical safety, environmental, mental and overall safety hazards? (We know your dog’s answer to this)
More fireworks injuries since fireworks law change
In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Academic Emergency Medicine, researchers from the University of Michigan and Northwestern University looked at the rise in fireworks-related injuries since Michigan’s fireworks law changed in 2012.
Researchers looked at emergency room data in periods before the law was enacted and after.
“The number of firework-related encounters from 2005 to 2011 was 81 compared to 160 from 2012 to 2018. The number of all-cause ED encounters at our institution increased over this time period as well.”
Data showed that consumer fireworks caused the most injuries, whether or not their use was legal at that time. In both time periods, mortars (which include missile-type rockets, single-tube devices with report, and reloadable shell devices) were the most common cause of injury followed by sparklers, bottle rockets/roman candles, and firecrackers, respectively.
However, after the law change, the proportion of injuries caused by mortars was significantly higher (59% vs 33%). There was a corresponding significant increase in traumatic amputation (7% vs 17%).
Both before and after the law, the patient was most often the firework user (74%).
“Our study shows that after the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, the number of patients presenting to our institution’s ED with firework-related injuries increased significantly. Additionally, a significantly higher proportion of injuries were caused by mortars and traumatic amputations increased significantly,” researchers wrote, but added, “Our data also show that consumer fireworks injured patients even when they were illegal in Michigan, indicating that repeal of the law alone will not eliminate firework injuries.”
In the U.S., fireworks started an estimated 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and 17,100 outside and other fires. These fires caused five deaths, 46 civilian injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage.
Fireworks and the environment
Fireworks release really high levels of pollution into our air every Fourth of July.
A study published last week in the journal Atmospheric Environment found that fireworks introduce 42% more pollutants in the air than in a normal day, an average result of 315 sites tested.
Another study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that at its peak, the smoke from a large fireworks event can be comparable to a wildfire.
Researchers said census tract-based analyses indicated that firework-related pollution levels varied substantially and were “disproportionately elevated in communities characterized by higher proportions of minority group populations, children and elderly residents, and asthma rates, thus underscoring the importance of environmental justice and education about the hazardous effects of short-term household and city-permitted firework displays.”
This, on top of the usual litter, debris and trash left behind from large-scale fireworks.
Economic impact of fireworks
There are clearly economic benefits to the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act. Tax revenue, temporary local businesses and jobs, and community impact for big fireworks shows.
For instance, in San Diego, the local fireworks show drove a 25% increase in restaurant sales and a 21% increase in overall retail sales in the area where the annual fireworks show is held. Hotels also saw a 23% increase in occupancy.
In Michigan, fireworks products are subject to a 6% safety fee, on top of the state’s 6% sales tax. In 2018, the state saw about $2.29 million in revenue from fireworks taxes and certificate fees.
Revenue from fireworks in the state goes to enforcement of the law and to firefighter training programs.
As a reference point, the Michigan Lottery generated more than $100 million in revenue in May 2021 alone. And in 2020, Michigan collected more than $31 million from the 10% adult-use marijuana excise tax.
What do you think? Do you support the Michigan fireworks law -- or do you think it should be changed or repealed? Let us know in the comment section below.