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UPMC Mercy Burn Center Urges Public to ‘Leave it to the Professionals’ When it Comes to Fireworks

PITTSBURGH, June 27, 2011 – With 4th of July celebrations right around the corner, the UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center team wants to make the public aware of just how dangerous fireworks can be. These explosive devices pose a serious injury risk to anyone attempting to use them. Even sparklers can cause devastating injuries and should be kept out of the hands of children.

The majority of patients with fireworks injuries treated at UPMC Mercy each year are men, with an average age of 30. Approximately five are admitted to the Burn Center with an amputation of a limb or loss of vision. “An important fact to note is that all of these injuries are 100 percent preventable,” said Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., medical director, UPMC Mercy burn services.

According to new data released last week by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1,900 people were injured using sparklers, bottle rockets and small firecrackers in the 30 days surrounding July 4, 2010. Hospital emergency rooms saw 8,600 consumers in 2010 with injuries from legal and illegal fireworks. These statistics make it very clear that fireworks should be left to the professionals at all times.

A prime example of the adage “leave it to the professionals” is the story of Mr. Vincent Fustos from Hermitage, Pa. In July 2009, while mixing flash powder to make homemade fireworks, there was an explosion that cost him his left hand as well as severely damaging his right hand and knee, caused 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 25 percent of his body and the loss of both eardrums. He had mixed flash powder dozens of times and had previous experience with explosives in the military and took extra precautions, yet still ended up in the UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center for 31 days. He credits the world-class care he received at Mercy with saving his life. “I am thankful and fortunate to have been flown to UPMC Mercy, which has, in my opinion, a second-to-none trauma team that saved my life and my body from further losses.” he said. Mr. Fustos now spends time voluntarily speaking to people to discourage them from using or tampering with fireworks of any kind.

Annual Glow Stick Giveaway

As part of an ongoing effort to discourage the use of fireworks and sparklers, the burn center team will once again provide glow sticks to more than 30 local area EMS agencies for distribution. Due to the increasing popularity, the number of glow sticks being distributed this year has been increased to 7,500. Community members are encouraged to contact their local EMS department for availability.

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