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Sparklers are a long-standing tradition during Fourth of July celebrations and other backyard summer parties. Though they are primarily sold at retailers in the United States only during the weeks preceding the Fourth of July, they are both inexpensive and plentiful. While sparklers are a fun way for children to get involved in the celebration, they are still a type of firework and pose risks for injury if not used correctly.
The slow-burning, handheld fireworks are simply a chemical mixture molded onto the end of a stiff wire. Once a sparkler is lit and the chemicals reach a high enough temperature, the reaction results in colored sparks that are emitted until the mold has progressively burnt out. While in theory, the chemical reaction created by lit sparklers is safe, their use is only safe for children who are properly instructed and supervised.
The primary safety concern for children using sparklers is burns. At the core of of the firework, the temperature can reach 1800° Fahrenheit (982°C). A third degree burn can result from temperatures of only 220°F (104°C). For this reason, adults should always show children how to hold sparklers and instruct them on safe handling. Young children who cannot control themselves should never handle any fireworks, and older children should always have adult supervision.
To keep the use of sparklers safe and fun, make sure to use common sense and practical safety measures. Adults should not let children light their own sparklers and should not attempt to re-light those that have malfunctioned. Because these fireworks burn so hot, they retain their heat for a period of time even after they have burned out, a bucket of water should be kept nearby to dispose of them after use. Sparklers inadvertently tossed to the ground can create a burn hazard for barefoot children, so everyone should wear shoes. Children should also be instructed not to touch the top part of a sparkler once it has been lit and make sure they never stick a lit one near anyone’s face, including their own.
If a burn or chemical reaction occurs, it's important to treat the burn immediately and properly. People should never use sparklers in place of candles on a cake, because the metal flakes that are emitted from them are not safe to ingest. With proper supervision and responsible use, sparklers can be safe and they add fun to summer celebrations, which gives kids something to look forward to.