Fireworks Industry, Seeing Major Growth, Stays Focused on Safety

As the fireworks industry experiences a big growth spurt, the American Pyrotechnics Association is reinforcing its safety message for the Independence Day holiday.

Almost everyone loves a great fireworks show on the Fourth of July, so Independence Day and the American Pyrotechnics Association go hand in hand.

But where there’s fire, there’s the potential for injury, which is why APA ramps up its safety messaging every year at this time. In 2016, the association created the American Pyrotechnics Safety and Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) group that encourages youth to use fireworks safely.

“The Independence Day holiday is the most popular day of the year to celebrate with backyard fireworks, so safety must be a top priority,” APSEF President Kevin Gilfallan said in a news release. He urged families to follow all instructions, launch fireworks on a flat surface free of debris, and keep spectators at a safe distance away.

A series of APA videos highlights the risks of using illegal explosives and the ways to use legal fireworks safely.

Growth surge

APA is staying focused on safety at a time of big industry growth. Several states have lifted restrictions on consumer use of fireworks over the past decade, boosting sales.

According to a recent Fortune report, APA estimates that Americans spend more than $1 billion on 268 million pounds of fireworks each year—roughly a pound for every American. Consumer fireworks alone represented $885 million in sales in 2017, a nearly $200 million increase from 2014, according to APA statistics. Consumer fireworks sales are expected to top $900 million in 2018.

Why have states been loosening the rules? “Part of it is tax revenue,” APA Executive Director Julie Heckman told Philadelphia-based NPR radio affiliate WHYY. “That was the primary driving force because lawmakers were tired of seeing their residents cross state lines.”

China’s role

And whether celebrating this week with backyard sparklers or big community displays, most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that the patriotic party is being brought to them largely by China.

Fortune estimates that 99 percent of fireworks come from China. And, as the Washington Post recently noted, 70 percent of those come through two companies, Shanghai Huayang and Firstrans International. Both are owned by the same man, Ding Yan Zhong, or “Mr. Ding,” as industry insiders call him.

APA’s Heckman told the Post that having a nearly exclusive supplier creates headaches for American fireworks companies. “Everything going through Shanghai goes through Mr. Ding and Huayang,” she said. “We have no choice. You want to get your products, that’s what you do. … The industry is at the mercy of that, and nobody wants to rock the boat.”

(ThomasVogel/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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