SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Firefighters and other public safety officials across the state are against a new bill that would loosen Illinois’ strict fireworks laws.
Illinois’s fireworks and pyrotechnics laws are one of the strictest in the nation. A new bill would expand the list of items not covered by the law to include “handheld or ground-based sparklers that are non-explosive and nonaerial that contain 75 grams or less of pyrotechnic composition per tube or 500 grams or less for multiple tubes”.
In a news conference Wednesday, advocates for firefighters cautioned legislators against legalizing the sparklers. They view them as hazardous.
“These are not little sparklers,” Tom Styczynski, the fire chief of the Alsip Fire Department, said. “The pyrotechnic devices they are trying to legalize contain 500 grams of pyrotechnic component, which is the highest potency before needing a professional pyrotechnic operators’ license to handle.”
Two of the major proponents of the legislation are the U.S. Fireworks Safety Commission — a private organization representing the fireworks industry — and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
According to a report from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, firework-related injuries in the U.S. have been on the rise. The report estimates 11,500 people went to the hospital for a firework related injury in 2021, and 13% of those were caused by sparklers.
An amendment was filed to make the ground-based sparklers only able to be sold to people over the age of 18, but medical experts say that won’t necessarily stop children from being injured by fireworks.
“Most of the injuries that I saw weren’t because parents were using them, or they were around them or not using what they thought was safe,” SIU School of Medicine’s Pediatrics Chairman Dr. Doug Carlson, who was at the press conference Wednesday, said. “They were in groups with family and friends that they use these devices thought that they would cool down and the children would get in and touch them.”
Burns from fireworks can be debilitating.
“I’ve seen kids who have had devastating scarring that is a lifelong injury they have to deal with continued surgeries and interventions reconstruction,” Kelly McElligott, Loyola Medicine’s Burn Outreach Coordinator, said. “But that can also cause a host of mental health issues, whether it’s anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, these kids are having to constantly work through what happened to them, and often something that was no fault of their own.”