Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Firecracker total ban by 2010

Health chief bats for slow removal of firecrackers

AS CASES of firecracker related injuries continue to go up, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is pushing for the gradual phase-out of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices for residential use.

Citing the cases of injuries posted last year as a result of New Year’s revelry, Duque said it is now important that all firecrackers even those regulated and allowed under the law must likewise be banned.

“We should not take for granted those fireworks classified as legal, like Kwitis, because when inappropriately used it explodes earlier or later than expected. The risk of being injured is high. Even the small-sized Piccolo should not be belittled because it has a short ignition time and causes instant injury,” Duque warned during the launch of the Department of Health (DOH) anti-firecrackers use campaign, titled "Four-mula Kontra Paputok" held at the Dr. Juan G. Nolasco High School in Tondo, Manila.

He said Fireworks-Related Injuries Surveillance Report covering December 21, 2006 to January 5, 2007 registered about 1,306 cases and up as number three cause of injury on the list was Piccolo.

“This firecracker is small and looks harmless; therefore it was not included in the ban list. But look, it has caused injuries to 119 children," Duque said, noting that Kwitis (138) and Five Star (133) were ranked numbers 1 and 2, respectively.

The health chief said the number of reported fireworks-related injuries has surged to more than 50 percent compared to last year (868 cases).

“However, it is not alarming. It only means that the government’s messages on seeking prompt treatment for sustained burns and injuries due to fireworks have been clearly sent to the public. The reason why we have a high number of reported cases is because even with just a slight cut on the skin, people go to the nearest hospital right away,” Duque explained.

Duque said the improved surveillance system and the massive information drive created by all agencies involved in the campaign for the high reporting coverage this year.

Aside from total ban, Duque also recommended that Republic Act (RA) 7183, the law that regulates the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices should be amended annually to update the list of banned fireworks; and that a governmental force requiring local fireworks manufacturers to reformulate and improve their products, particularly on its safety, be created.

“It is very important that we update our list regularly because there are always many new and, therefore, unclassified fireworks that find their way to the market each holiday season. If they are unclassified, they are illegal. Now, many of those that caused injuries last season were new names such as Camara, Chickboom, Dart Bomb, Tamba Lete, and even Darna. As a matter of fact, 157 of the reported injuries were from unknown fireworks,” Duque said.

Duque also reminded the public that Boga is still banned. Boga is a locally made improvised PVC pipe cannon.

"It is popular because it is cheap and re-usable. During the first week of the surveillance period (December 21-27) last holiday season, it topped the list of fireworks-related injuries after causing 38 eye injuries, 32 blast/burn injuries without amputation and one blast/burn injury with amputation. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo immediately banned it on December 27. The following surveillance week, it was not on the list anymore," Duque explained.

The ages of the victims of firecracker ranged from 24 weeks to 84 years old, with 52 percent of them 15 years old and younger. Majority or 80 percent were males. Sixty-two percent (826/1306) came from Metro Manila, with the largest proportion coming from Manila (277) and Quezon City (220). The highest number (562/1306) of cases were reported on January 1, 2007.

Two deaths were recorded in last year’s revelry: an unborn baby of a 21-year-old mother who was hit by a stray bullet and a 19-year-old male who died of tetanus.

The reported 1,306 reported cases were classified as follows: 1,267 firework-related injuries; 36 stray bullet injuries; and three Watusi ingestions. (MSN/Sunnex)

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