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Eye risk from bird-scarer fireworks

Wednesday October 3rd, 2012

An increasingly popular type of firework - based on bird-scarers - poses a high risk of serious eye injury, doctors warn today.

These explosives are derived from "rope bangers", in which a slow burning rope fuse ignites several explosives along the length of a rope at, for example, 30 minute intervals. They are often used to scare away birds or other animals from agricultural land.

But the fuse can be cut down so each explosive ignites after 30 seconds, police say.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Edward Pringle and colleagues from Sussex Eye Hospital, UK, call for stricter controls on the use and distribution of such explosives. They report on eight severe eye injuries in children and adults on bonfire night last year. Five of the patients who presented at hospital with eye injuries due to these explosives had serious damage, either blindness or a lifelong raised risk of glaucoma.

In each case, a banger was thrown into the crowd, exploded in front of them, and a blast of material from the explosive hit their face. The injuries were all comparable with a blunt injury to the eyeball, say the experts, who add that the eye injury rate was higher than normally expected on bonfire night.

They point out that, in the UK, there is no legislation for safety restrictions at firework displays, because serious accidental injury is not included in the Public Order Act.

The authors write: "Numbers of blinding injuries have fallen in countries with legislation that controls the use and distribution of fireworks. If we cannot create effective legislation we must create a culture that does not tolerate the throwing of banger style explosives into crowds of adults and children."

Pringle, E. et al. Eye Injuries Due to Fireworks. The British Medical Journal September 27 2012

Tags: A&E | Child Health | Eye Health | UK News

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