The fun and relaxation of Independence Day weekend could be ruined by legal and medical woes if fireworks are used improperly by unlicensed individuals.
"The biggest tip would be don't do it," said Joel Kaminski, president of the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio. He said there are plenty of public fireworks events and that individuals need not put on their own displays.
Those who choose to set off fireworks have to navigate a series of confusing laws in Ohio and Michigan. In both states "trick and novelty" products, such as sparklers, smoke bombs, and party poppers are legal and can be sold to anyone. Anything larger requires a permit to set off, but not always to buy.
Consumer grade fireworks, such as bottle rockets and Roman candles, can be purchased in Ohio if the buyer promises to leave the state with the products. Ohio residents have 48 hours to cross the border, and nonresidents have 72.
Of course if you cross that border into Michigan, there are more legal hoops to jump through. Consumer grade fireworks can't be used in Michigan either, although they can be bought. They often can be purchased without a permit as long as the buyer promises to leave the state.
Many illegal displays go on in backyards across Ohio and Michigan without police interference.
Monroe County prosecutor Mike Weipert said that fireworks laws are difficult to enforce. There aren't enough officers to cite every illegal user, but some people do get cited and are prosecuted.
Others spend the holiday weekend in the emergency room. In 2002 alone, 8,800 fireworks-related injuries were treated in emergency rooms nationwide, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Dr. Jeff Katko, an emergency room physician at St. Anne Mercy Hospital, said he sees fireworks-related injuries around this time every year. The most common injuries are burns on the face and hands, cuts to fingers, and foreign bodies damaging the eye.
Dr. Katko said the overwhelming majority of patients are males, from teenagers to those in their thirties. The damage is usually done when fireworks go off unexpectedly and/or alcohol is involved. Most injuries are minor, but occasionally, people lose fingers or vision in one of their eyes.