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Fireworks related injuries: does changing legislation make a difference? A thought for next Hallowe'en
  1. J J Johnston,
  2. M Jenkins,
  3. L A McKinney
  1. Altnagelvin Area Hospital, Glenshane Road, Londonderry BT47 6SB, Northern Ireland

    Statistics from

    Editor,—In August 1996 there was a change in legislation. The Explosives Act (Northern Ireland) 1970 (as amended by the Explosives (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1996) allowed over the counter sale of fireworks to anybody over 16 year of age.1 Prior to this, it was illegal to buy fireworks in Northern Ireland.

    For the same four week period (11 October–11 November) for the years 1994 and 1995, all accident and emergency notes were reviewed retrospectively and patients with firework related injuries were identified. The years 1996–1998 were collected prospectively. The patients' age, sex, date of presentation, injury, site of injury and follow up were recorded.

    Thirty five patients presented to the department with fireworks related injuries over the study period. This consisted of 27 men and eight women (fig 1). Men in their late teens (mean age 18 years, 77% of all males) were the predominant group. Fifty five per cent of all injuries involved the hand.

    There has been a threefold increase in the number of injuries presenting to this department after the change in legislation (χ2 = 20.61, p<0.001).

    In this hospital, firework injuries presented most commonly on Hallowe'en night (31 October) and the following night (fig 2). This is due to the people of Londonderry celebrating “the biggest Hallowe'en party in Europe”. This peak is not reflected in national figures as the trend is for the injuries to occur around the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes night).2 With this in mind, campaigns should run to target periods that are identified locally.

    Firework injuries in Northern Ireland are not included in the national yearly figures published by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).2 Firework injury reporting has only been monitored in Northern Ireland since 1996, but the figures are collected and sent yearly to the DTI.

    Legalising the sale of fireworks has resulted in an increase in the number of fireworks related incidents. This is not in keeping with the trends noted in Great Britain. Northern Ireland firework injury figures, albeit collected, are not included in the national reported figures.

    Figure 1

    Sex difference of the injured.

    Figure 2

    Dates of firework related injuries over the study period.


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