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DOH bats for total firecracker ban

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday pushed for the declaration of a total firecracker ban in all residential areas nationwide to further reduce firecracker-related injuries in the coming holiday season.

“We recommend a ban on the use of firecrackers in residential areas and encourage local authorities to designate an area where firecrackers could be lighted, displayed and handled by professionals or those who are trained in using explosive devices,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Duque said government health authorities would be working with local government units (LGU), particularly city health offices, for the implementation of a total firecracker ban.

The health chief explained that firecrackers, whether sold legally or illegally, caused serious injuries to more than 700 people last year.

Based on DOH data, the firecrackers that caused the most injuries in 2008 were piccolo, kwitis, 5-star, luces and homemade or altered firecrackers.

Duque said kwitis and luces are considered legal firecrackers and are openly sold in local markets nationwide.

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“These are not toys and are very dangerous, especially in the hands of innocent children,” he pointed out, emphasizing that just because they are legal doesn’t necessarily make the firecrackers safe.

Duque said luces could generate heat 10 times the boiling point of water.

He lamented that watusi and other illegal firecrackers still find their way to the market and continue to cause serious injuries.

In 2008, Duque said the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC) recorded an all-time low incidence of firecracker-related injuries compared to the previous four years.

“The 733 firecracker-related injuries recorded from Dec. 21, 2008 to Jan. 5, 2009 was 28 percent lower compared to the previous four-year average,” he said.

The National Capital Region recorded the highest number of cases with 451. Among the cities and municipalities in NCR, Manila accounted for nearly half or 176 cases.

Reducing firecracker- related accidents

Despite the remarkable decline, Duque said the DOH is still mounting the “Iwas Paputok” campaign, considering that many of those who sustained injuries were children below 10 years.

He added that DOH has recorded a slight increase in the number of injuries from stray bullets caused by indiscriminate firing of guns. These were reported in the two regions in Mindanao with no previous records.

“The government hopes to reduce the incidence of firecracker-related injuries by 50 percent with the Iwas Paputok campaign,” Duque said.

To raise public awareness on the dangers of firecrackers, the DOH relaunched yesterday its “FOURmula Kontra Paputok” campaign.

“A majority of the victims were young children, so we are calling on parents to keep firecrackers out of the reach of young kids. Be responsible in protecting your children,” Duque said.

The health chief said the global financial crisis and the calamities that hit the country are also expected to cause a significant decline in the number of people using firecrackers.

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