The Fourth of July: Some Fun Fireworks Facts

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A two-break canister shell.

When the US was founded in 1776, John Adams wrote that our independence day “…ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

When Adams referred to “illuminations,” he was talking about fireworks. And as America gets ready to celebrate its 237th birthday, fireworks stands and pyrotechnic display companies across the nation are preparing for their busiest week of the year.

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In honor of Independence Day, the producers of Passfire, the fireworks documentary, have pulled together some interesting facts about fireworks that you may not know:

Today’s consumer fireworks are safer than ever.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) and iconic brands like Black Cat, modern consumer fireworks, when used as intended are safe and reliable. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) sports such as basketball are responsible for far more injuries each year than consumer fireworks. Here’s a consumer fireworks safety video courtesy of the APA.

Cherry Bombs and M-80’s are a thing of the past.

Although there may be products branded as such, real cherry bombs and M-80’s where outlawed by the Child Safety Act of 1966 and today’s firecrackers contain a maximum of just 50 mg of flash powder – enough for a thrilling bang, but not enough to cause serious injury or dismemberment.

The least fireworks-friendly states have the most accidents.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, it is actually states with the most restrictions on consumer fireworks, such as New York, that have the most accidents. As fireworks consultant Charles Weeth of Weeth & Associates LLC observes, “Year after year the CPSC does their annual reports and when you look at the raw data, New York leads the nation every year, followed by New Jersey.”

Most of the world’s fireworks are made in China but the US has a huge number of pyrotechnic hobbyists.

While estimates vary, there are as many as 50,000 Americans who legally produce their own fireworks as a hobby, with the help of organizations like the Pyrotechnics Guild International (PGI) and companies like Skylighter.com and Pyrodirect.com. With the proper licensing, knowledge, guidance and safety precautions many find making their own fireworks a rewarding hobby.

Conditions in Chinese fireworks factories are better than you think.

With China’s booming economy, wage rates in all industrial sectors have been rising, including the fireworks industry. Chinese firework makers are seeing their wages rise by 15-30% a year and physical and safety conditions in factories are constantly improving. Some factories even provide air-conditioned workrooms and child labor is non-existent.

And now here’s an interesting info graphic that tells you everything you wanted to know about professional display fireworks, courtesy of Ghergich & Co. (click to enlarge).

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Have a fun, safe and sane 4th of July!

For more information on the amazing universe of pyrotechnics be sure to like the Passfire Facebook page.

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Trained as an aerospace engineer, writer/director Jesse Veverka was a financial analyst on Wall Street before co-founding his own media production company, Veverka Bros. Productions LLC, with his brother Jeremy. He has worked and lived throughout Asia, including Japan, Korea, Indonesia and China, where he has produced a number of award-winning films. His articles have appeared in various publications including CNN Travel, Japan’s Metropolis Magazine and China’s Global Times. He was born in Ithaca, NY. Jeremy Veverka is a media professional with specialties in documentary filmmaking, photojournalism, cinematography, sound design, and commercial work. His award-winning films, including the feature documentary China: The Rebirth of an Empire, cover a range of geopolitical issues and have been screened at dozens of film festivals worldwide. With a degree in English from Cornell University and extensive travel experience throughout Asia and the Middle East, Jeremy brings his background in storytelling and international journalism to each of his projects and strives to give a voice to historically underrepresented groups. To learn more, visit www.jeremyveverka.com or follow Jeremy on Twitter: @JeremyVeverka.