Your July 4 Fireworks: Made in China, Like Everything Else

China is making much more than iPhone parts. New supply chain data shows they've blown away the global competition on fireworks.

U.S. companies love China for its stockpile of low-cost manufacturing partners that attract the likes of Apple, Wal-Mart and every other business looking to take advantage of China's cheap production costs.

Supply chain risks be damned, U.S. companies have become overly dependent on China's value proposition—delivering goods cheap and fast without all the labor hassles and costs found elsewhere.

So it is with some trace of irony that on the holiday weekend when Americans celebrate their independence from the tyranny and exploitation of another foreign country, that the good 'ole USofA once again looks to the Far East for the most cherished emblem of said celebration: fireworks.

China is the dominant global exporter of fireworks, according to Panjiva, which tracks the flow of waterborne goods into the United States. (China's dominance is not totally surprising, since fireworks originated there some 2,000 years ago.)

Fireworks are, of course, a key piece of most July 4th traditions: Commemorating our fledgling nation's struggle for freedom by allowing teenagers to blow up Coke cans with M-80s, annoying our neighbors who might be trying to sleep, and scaring the crap out of beloved family pets. (And don't forget keeping hospitals busy: In 2009, nearly 9,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC.)

The Panjiva data showing the extreme seasonality of firework imports to the U.S. is about as surprising as a 9-year-old who thinks sparklers are lame: a significant ramp up in imports in the months preceding July.

According to May 2010 import data, there were 2,093 fireworks shipments to the United States (from around the world) during the month alone. (A "shipment" is based on each customs slip with the item on it, which can vary in size, according to Panjiva.) The May 2010 numbers are roughly the same as last year, though up just a bit from 2008. (Perhaps another sign of the Great Recession being over?)

It's interesting to note that five states still ban fireworks outright, and six more have restrictive fireworks regulations, according to the U.S. CPSC. Have a blast in those 39 other states!

You may be wondering about how many burnt fingers or lacerated eyes come with each shipment of bottle rockets, salutes and M-80s. Well, using the CPSC and Panjiva data sets, I figure there are roughly 1.5 injuries per fireworks shipment. Light 'em up, kiddos!

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