Firework Warning

Bonfire night organisers should encourage audiences to protect their eyes, leading ophthalmologists have said after a firework caused blindness and severe eye injuries in children and adults.

The doctors at Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton said they treated eight patients following a bonfire night celebration in Lewes, East Sussex.

A 58-year-old and a 13-year-old were both blinded and three other patients, age 10, 15 and 18, were seriously injured and now face a lifelong risk of glaucoma after they were struck by a new type of firework last year.

Edward Pringle and colleagues said in a letter to the BMJ that police inquiries suggest the new explosive was derived from ``rope banger deer scarers'', which have a slow-burning rope fuse that ignites several explosives along the rope.

When cut down, the fuse and explosive can be lit and thrown, they said.

All of the patients had a blunt injury to the eyeball, caused by material within the explosive charge, they said.

"Numbers of blinding injuries have fallen in countries with legislation that controls the use and distribution of fireworks,'' the authors wrote.

"The UK has legislation to limit distribution, but deer scarers are exempt because they are not actual fireworks.''

They said that 52% of firework injuries occur at public events, adding: "Organisers must actively engage their audience in safer use of fireworks and encourage eye protection.

"If we cannot create effective legislation, we must create a culture that does not tolerate the throwing of banger-type explosives into crowds.

"Extraordinarily, this remains a challenge.''