This type of firework disfigures people more than any other, UW study shows

Shell-and-mortar fireworks are legal in Washington state, but a new UW Medicine study finds more disfiguring injuries came from accidents with shell-and-mortar fireworks than any other legal firework — and some illegal ones.

Mike Spencer lit the fuse and held the firework above his head.

It was a shell-and-mortar-style firework, and directions on the box usually say to put the barrel-like mortar on the ground pointing skyward, pop in the grenade-like shell, light the fuse — and run.

But Spencer, who was visiting his girlfriend in Bigfork, Mont., held it in his hands instead.

Then, “Bang!” The shell never left its tube.

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“My hands felt warm,” Spencer said. “I looked at them and just saw red.”

That’s the last thing he remembers of April 30, 2015.

According to friends, he took off running after the explosion and had to be tackled.

He regained consciousness the next day at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he had been airlifted because of the severity of his injuries.

He lost one finger on his right hand and three on his left.

Spencer is one data point in a study by Harborview’s Injury Prevention and Research Center of 10 years of patients who came through its doors for firework injuries between 2005-2015. Researchers found that nearly 40 percent of injuries came from shell-and-mortar style fireworks like the one that hurt Spencer.

Since 1999, about 10,500 people have been treated for firework-related injuries every year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. But there’s not much data on what types of fireworks cause the most severe injuries, said Dr. Monica Vavilala, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Most studies focus on the danger inherent in all fireworks, according to researchers.

“That doesn’t give you the sense of how serious these injuries are,” Vavilala said….

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