Many Texas fireworks retailers are reporting improved sales this season as drought conditions have eased in most areas of the state, and with them the restrictions many counties had placed on the sale and use of such products. But the need to use caution as Texans celebrate the start of the new year has not eased.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also deals with unintentional injury prevention, 11 people died and an estimated 9,200 people were treated in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries in the United States in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available. An estimated 5 percent of fireworks-related injuries treated in emergency rooms required hospitalization.

More than two-thirds of all fireworks-related injuries that year occurred between June 16 and July 16, when Americans are celebrating Independence Day. But the risk of injury is just as real during the last week of December.

Those in greatest jeopardy are young. One out of three injuries are to children under 15, and young people under 20 sustained nearly half – 47 percent – of all injuries from fireworks.

Property damage tied directly to fireworks is also significant – $21 million in all during 2004, according to CDC statistics.

Basic regulations and ordinances regarding the sale and use of consumer fireworks remain in place, even if the recent local restrictions are not. For example, firework use is prohibited within city limits. But the responsibility for proper use of fireworks is in the hands of the people who enjoy them.

Have a happy New Year’s Eve celebration, but have a safe one, too.

Brownwood Bulletin