The illegal devices cost pennies to make and sell for $1 or more.
The U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is promoting a safe July Fourth and asking the public to expose traffickers in illegal explosive devices by calling 1-888-ATF-BOMB.
Frank A. D'Alesio, resident agent-in-charge at the Youngstown ATF field office, recommends that fireworks be purchased not from street sellers but from established vendors who operate openly.
Too often, D'Alesio said, street sales involve deadly, illegal explosives that may go off prematurely in a person's hand or pocket.
The illegal devices meet no safety standards and are often coated with an explosive dust, he said. Friction, heat or a bump can cause them to detonate.
Each year, ATF recovers and destroys hundreds of thousands of the devices.
ATF regulates explosives and investigates most explosive crimes and accidents.
Traffickers sometimes keep hundreds of pounds of illegal devices in homes and rental storage units, which then become huge unstable bombs capable of shattering houses and businesses in a city block.
Legal fireworks vendors should be selling items clearly marked UN/DOT Code 1.4 that also list the make and come with instructions for safe use.
Small fireworks with street names such as M-80, M-100, M-1000, Ashcan, Cherry Bomb, Silver Salute, Quarterstick and Quarterpounder are illegal explosives that cause an unknown number of injuries each year, D'Alesio said.
An M-80 that detonates in a hand can take off fingers. A dozen M-80s detonating near a person can sever a hand or arm.
One carton of 1,400 M-80s has enough explosive power to wreck a home, and 500 pounds of M-80s are as deadly as the SCUD missiles launched against allied forces in the Persian Gulf War.
Typically, an illegal explosive device:
Uresembles a roll of coins with a fuse.
Uis a cardboard tube filled with an explosive material.
Uis one to six inches long and up to an inch in diameter.
Uis red, silver or brown.
Usells between $1 and $5 on the streets.
People make and sell illegal explosives because of the profit, D'Alesio said.
The devices cost pennies to make and sell for $1 or more.
D'Alesio said adults should assume a leadership role, making sure all July 4 celebrations with fireworks are safe.
Adults should discourage foolishness and games using fireworks and never mix alcohol with explosives.