Big bang

January 05, 2002

THE OLD YEAR went up in smoke. Especially in Lima, Peru, where a firecracker in a crowded street market detonated fireworks stalls and destroyed four blocks of commercial buildings, killing 274 people.

Also in China, where explosions in two fireworks factories killed 18 and injured 85, mostly child workers. Making these deadly toys is work for children in China, South and Central America.

The United States is relatively safe on world tables. The Centers for Disease Control report that 16 people died in this country in 1999 and 8,500 were injured.

Fortunately, Maryland has tough laws against fireworks in untrained hands. Unfortunately, the District of Columbia and some Southern states do not. An awful lot of contraband comes in.

Spectacular fireworks touched off by trained professionals are wonderful. But the backyard cherry bomb is not worth a child's missing finger, or the death of a Chinese child worker or Peruvian vendor. Tragedies spoil the fun.

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