By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
In Mexico, fireworks and pyrotechnic displays are a staple element of the Christmas holiday season.
But each year, dozens of Mexicans are seriously injured by accidents caused by the improper use of fireworks.
Last year at this time, at least 29 people were killed and 50 others were maimed after an explosion ripped through the open-air Mercado San Pablito in Tultepec, a popular fireworks market just north of Mexico City.
At the time of the Dec. 20 blast, the market was packed with shoppers buying fireworks for upcoming holiday celebrations.
And while massive firework accidents receive the most press coverage, each year at least 300 Mexicans suffer severe burns and injuries from at-home use of pyrotechnics.
The most common injuries are burns to hands and face.
Most of these accidents are preventable, if people take the proper precautions when using fireworks, starting with careful supervision of minors.
Children should never be left alone with fireworks.
According to dermatological surgeon Ana Lilia Ruelas Villavicencio, about 60 percent of all firework accidents in Mexico happen to children between the ages of 5 and 14.
“And 5 percent of those accidents lead to severe burns that leave scars or permanent damage,” she said.
To avoid accidents, read all cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
Never set off fireworks indoors, and be sure that they are aimed away from buildings and structures.
Always wear safety glasses when shooting off fireworks, and light only one firecracker at a time.
If a firecracker is a dud and doesn’t go off properly, do not try to relight it.
Instead, wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
And remember, alcohol and fireworks do not mix, so save that celebratory champagne for after the show.