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Milestones in Fireworks History

Milestones in Fireworks Quality & Safety Improvement

1970 – U.S. Department of Transportation is established and continues to apply limits on pyrotechnic composition for various types of consumer fireworks that were established in 1948 by the Interstate Commerce Commission. These were the limits for "DOT Class C Common Fireworks".

1976 – The newly created U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) promulgates construction and performance requirements for consumer fireworks. These regulations cover cautionary labeling, fuse burn time, explosive powder content, stability for both ground-based and aerial devices, and proper performance. These were the first Federal regulations covering consumer fireworks; prior to these regulations, states had the obligation to establish and enforce fireworks regulations. The quality of consumer fireworks improved dramatically with the implementation of the CPSC rules, and the injury rate associated with the use of consumer fireworks began to decline.

1988 – The CPSC began a strict inspection and enforcement program regarding Chinese-manufactured consumer fireworks. China began importing fireworks to the U.S. in 1973, and was the dominant supplier of U.S. consumer fireworks by the mid-1980's.  A this time, U.S. importers established the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) to address compliance issues with respect to consumer fireworks, and to establish additional requirements for consumer fireworks that went beyond the CPSC requirements.

1992 – The AFSL program grew quickly. By 1992, standards had been developed for each category of consumer fireworks that incorporated the requirements of DOT and CPSC, as well as additional requirements to insure proper performance of consumer fireworks. These standards were translated into Chinese, and numerous meetings were held in China to introduce these standards to the Chinese manufacturers.

1994 – The AFSL established a testing program inside China, whereby U.S. importers could elect to have their products tested for compliance with all of the AFSL standards prior to the products being shipped from China.  In the first year of testing, 36% of the lots of fireworks submitted for testing were rejected by the independent, third-party laboratory selected by AFSL to perform the testing in China. The compliance rate of fireworks arriving in the U.S. that were tested by CPSC upon importation began to improve significantly.  Every case of product that was tested in China received a distinctively colored, sequentially numbered AFSL label that could be traced back to a specific tested lot of fireworks.

2002- The compliance rate for products tested in China exceeded 90%. CPSC acknowledged that they recognized that the AFSL testing program was having a significant impact on compliance, and they began to focus their compliance efforts on products that have not gone through AFSL testing in China.

2004 – The testing of consumer fireworks in China surpasses 5,000,000 shipping cartons of product. It is estimated that this volume represents 80-90% of the consumer fireworks products being shipped to the United States.  As the AFSL testing program has developed, including frequent meetings with Chinese manufacturers to discuss updates to the standards, the injury rate associated with consumer fireworks has continued to drop to record-low levels. The 2004 AFSL compliance rates for "Safe and Sane" fireworks in 2004 was 100% for snakes, 96% for smoke devices, 96% for ground spinners, and 95% for fountains.  Injuries reported to CPSC for these categories of fireworks represented a very small percentage of all "fireworks-related" injuries as well.

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