Homemade explosives and their professionally made, illegally sold, and/or illegally used counterparts sent shuddering booms across the East Bay last night. Fireworks and homemade explosives trigger thousands of injuries and several deaths every year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which charts the casualties.
According to CPSC records, last year "sparklers were associated with the greatest number of estimated injuries at 1,100. There were 1,000 injuries associated with firecrackers and 900 associated with rockets." Last year's nine deaths included "a 62-year-old Nevada man [who] had spent the evening lighting fireworks. After finishing the fireworks activity, the victim placed the used fireworks in a cardboard box and then put the box in his garage. The fireworks smoldered and ignited the box. The resulting fire spread to the garage. The victim was overcome by smoke when he entered the garage to put out the fire." Also: "A 31-year-old man and his 32-year-old brother were involved in an explosion in a maintenance building in an apartment complex in Michigan. The victims were manufacturing fireworks when the explosion occurred. The victims were reported to have purchased pyrotechnic components over the Internet. One victim died six days after being admitted to the hospital, and the other brother died two weeks after the incident."
"One major problem," says the agency's Julie Vallese, "is when consumers purchase professional-grade fireworks" - the big ones meant for municipal displays - "via illegal means from unscrupulous dealers." Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, possession can result in four-figure fines and prison time. CPSC has formed parnerships within the Chinese government to monitor product quality; over 97 percent of all fireworks imported into this country come from China, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission.—Anneli Rufus