China rule regarding U.S. 1.4G Consumer Fireworks multi-shot “Cakes”

As you have all been hearing there is a significant obstacle facing the manufacture and export of traditional  UN0336, 1.4G consumer fireworks made for America.

At issue is the application of a certain part of the  United Nations “Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulation, Volume 1,  Twenty-first revised edition”1, incorporated by reference which contains “Table – Default  fireworks classification table”1that describes “This table contains a list of fireworks classifications that  may be used in the absence of Test Series 6 data (see”1. Under the guidelines presented in the  UN table, any multiple tube device (cake) containing tubes with an inside diameter greater than 30mm or  1.2” would be classed as 1.3G fireworks unless they were subjected to UN Series 6 testing and were  subsequently determined to be 1.4G. Should such conditions prevail and be fully implemented by the  Chinese Government it would have a profoundly negative effect on the manufacture and importation of  many 500gram cakes regularly available in the U.S. market today.

The National Fireworks Association  (NFA) has been following this issue as it has been morphing into being over the past two months. Many  rumors have abounded, and many people are promulgating ideas being discussed as though they are final  solutions to the problem. As of this time there is no final, absolute conclusion on the current situation.  Before we tackle the various topics, let us provide some background and perspective on this issue as we  here at the NFA understand it.

Historically the country of China has recognized that fireworks being shipped to the United States can be  manufactured, classed and transported under the conditions by which the United States categorizes such  items. The United States PHMSA/DOT has prescribed construction requirements for fireworks being  exported to and imported by American importers which are in place to enhance safety for the manufacturers,  transporters, sellers and end users of such products. It is the opinion of the National Fireworks Association  (NFA) that U.S. Consumer, 1.4G, UN0336 Fireworks products are the safest in the world.

In December of 2019 a terrible accident happened in China at an unlicensed factory in China that was  manufacturing NON U.S. compliant 1.4G fireworks. The result was an accident that led to a significant  death toll of workers at the factory, a real tragedy. Understandably, the Chinese government swiftly  investigated the accident and prosecuted those responsible for the tragedy. Since then there have been a number of changes that China CIQ/Customs (the entity that governs fireworks exports) has implemented  to bolster safety protocols.

Unfortunately, we believe that their application of the UN recommended  standards are being misapplied to U.S. 1.4G consumer fireworks because our U.S. requirements are actually  a higher standard and this has been commonly accepted over many past decades. The UN recommendations  do not address construction methods and specific chemical usage, rather they reference only tube size and  individual tube pyrotechnic content.

For example, in the U.S. when multiple tube devices, commonly  referred to as “cakes” exceed a gross pyrotechnic weight of 200grams, there must be a minimum tube spacing of 12.8mm between all tubes in all directions from each other. This limits the propagation effect  of an “explosion” in one tube to continue to the next. This is a significant component of safety. Further,  U.S. cakes are commonly constructed to a limit of 500grams of pyrotechnic composition. The UN  recommendations do not address these specific construction and gross pyrotechnic device weight issues,  rather they define classification based on tube size and pyrotechnic composition per tube alone. The UN  recommendations would allow for a cake with inside tube diameters ≤ 30mm where each tube contains a  maximum ≤ 25grams per tube of pyrotechnic composition to be manufactured with 100 tubes having no  tube spacing. Such a device would be classed as a 1.4G device using the UN table referenced earlier, but  it could contain up to 2,500grams of pyrotechnic composition and have no tube spacing. It is the experience  of the NFA that such a device would be more dangerous than a 1.4G 9 shot 2.25” 500gram cake  manufactured for the U.S. market under U.S. construction requirements. The distinct difference in  construction methods and their positive effect on device safety is where we see the crux of the issue.

In addressing the various solutions to the issue that have been discussed to date we will go through them and highlight their status.

Discussed “quick” solutions and status:
1) Grace Period allowing items with inside tube diameters >30mm up to 50mm to be manufactured  before November 30th, 2020.
a. This has happened. The cakes must be “topped” with a 9mm thick board after they have  been placed in the shipping carton before it is sealed. Under these requirements the items  will still be considered UN0336 1.4G. This is good news for now, but it is only temporary.
2) Steel “cages” placed around items not conforming to the ≤ 30mm rule in the UN Table. a. This is not a final solution. This was only discussed as “possible” action to reach a possible  solution. Currently the Netherlands requires such cages on their product which could  include very large cakes – think coffee table size that have no tube spacing – these are not  comparable to U.S. 1.4G products. The NFA strongly disagrees with this steel cage  approach. The cost in terms of both time and money is wasteful, inappropriate and  unneeded because of how U.S. 1.4G consumer products are built and what they are built  with. Also, it appears that the reasoning behind having the steel cage is based off of an  incorrect application of a 15 meter specification that is being applied to the inserts (shells)  and stars of consumer fireworks cakes, rather than debris or “shrapnel” (think left over  parts) following a large singular “explosion”. This requirement was established in the  testing protocols to apply to fragmenting grenades not consumer fireworks. The proper  way to do this test is to put up “shadow plates” around the devices and then measure the  dent depths to determine if it passes, but in China they are not interpreting it as such and  instead are just saying that if the cake is placed in a burn pit and expels a star or shell (the  insert) more than 15 meters outward it fails. With this interpretation virtually ALL cakes  would fail – even those with tubes under 30mm such as small 200gram cakes that are  automatically granted 1.4G status. Clearly this application of the test needs to be  addressed. In preloaded tubes the inserts are designed with an intended function to expel  more than 15m out of the device. Using an intended function of the device to disqualify it  is wholly inappropriate and causes the UN rules to be in immediate conflict with  themselves. The thinking behind the cage is that it would limit star or shell expulsion  should a cake catch fire and begin to rapidly burn – in essence meeting a requirement that  doesn’t actually exist under U.S. interpretation of the UN standard. While this is bad
enough, the NFA also feels that by constricting the item in a cage it could actually lead to  a more rapid and more dangerous deflagration scenario than what our U.S. 1.4G products  are presently built and designed to prevent. The difference between deflagration and  detonation are very important to understand. A deflagration is a rapid burning of  pyrotechnic effects where the flame front moves through the material below the speed of  sound, but faster than convective burning. A detonation is a nearly singular “all at once”  consumption of all explosive material where the flame front moves through the material  faster than the speed of sound. Deflagration is what consumer fireworks and many  professional fireworks do. Detonation is what dynamite or military grade explosives do.  They are vastly different, and while terms are often “generally” misapplied, it is an  important distinction we must make when discussing anything classed as an explosive.  Specifically, at no time that we are aware of, has any compliant U.S. manufactured 1.4G  consumer fireworks fire resulted in a detonation class “explosion” or loss of life. This is  due to the chemicals being used in the devices as well as the tube spacing that prevents a  mass, sequentially timed “detonation” event because the propagation of an initial explosion into another is severely limited by the air space or void between tubes. Rather, the devices  just burn and discharge over time, allowing for the fire to be contained and the preservation  of life to be accomplished. U.S. consumer fireworks already have the safety features built  into them for safe handling and transportation, above and beyond what the UN  recommendations are. Steel cages will just add unnecessary expense, time and problems  to the process. Further, if we just “accept” steel cages we would, in essence, be agreeing  that our U.S. 1.4G fireworks are actually dangerous enough to need the cages. That  could/would have potentially far broader negative implications than any of us in the  consumer fireworks business could stand.
3) Placing dual placards on shipping cartons – cases for purposes of this discussion. a. This a non-starter. Specifically, it was discussed in general terms that a 1.3G placard would  be placed on the box in addition to the 1.4G placard. The thought was that the 1.3G would  be used only while it was being transported in China, and then once it departed on the ship  from the port the 1.4G placard would take over. But, you cannot do this, the confusion that  would prevail would be too much. It would also lend itself to abuses. Remember, once an  item enters the 1.3G realm everything changes. The NFA believes such a process would  ruin the integrity of the safety of the U.S. 1.4G Consumer fireworks products as it would  be much easier for people to “smuggle” in illegal fireworks by U.S. standards. How could  U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) and PHMSA/DOT ever be expected to track such  merchandise? Also, keep in mind that in the U.S. when it comes to handling 1.3G versus  1.4G explosives, the rules are vastly different as far as warehousing/storage, authorities  having jurisdiction (AHJ’s). In some other countries the differences in handling are not  near what they are here, so a 1.3G/1.4G placarding system is not practical or really even  possible. As we said before, this is a non-starter as an option, for far too many reasons.  Last, our existing EX/FC numbers are granted for 1.4G items, we can’t put EX/FC #’s for  1.4G items on 1.3G boxes.
4) Handling and shipping products from China as 1.3G and then remarking the cases once they arrive  in the U.S. as 1.4G.
a. This is also a non-starter. Aside from the same potential abuse problems in exporting  fireworks to the U.S. and the EX/FC # problems, there is simply no cargo space to do this.  The space for shipping 1.4G containers is already nearly maxed out and the space allowed  for 1.3G containers is a fraction of what is allowed for 1.4G containers. Put simply you  cannot pour the contents of a gallon of milk into a shot glass. It simply won’t fit.
Now that we have addressed some of the more “talked about” rumors or solutions, let’s turn to what the  NFA is and has been working on.
The NFA has reached out to PHMSA/USDOT and have requested their assistance in working with China  on this issue. This is an international trade issue and we at the NFA are also discussing with our  Washington, DC lobbyists the involvement of the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative  to assist with the diplomatic side of this issue. This needs to happen. The decision that has been made was  made by the Chinese export authority in Changsha which, at the end of the day, holds the power over  fireworks movement in China. This is a Chinese Government ruling, so we need our U.S. Government  counterparts to act on our behalf to assist us in Beijing so that further clarity can be passed on to the  Changsha authority. This is an international trade issue and the NFA believes this issue could or will have  implications even outside our industry in terms of international trade if left unchecked. For decades, US  consumer fireworks have been manufactured to in China to meet our specifications and criteria because  they are being sent here to the U.S. for sale and use. We believe this was justified especially since we  believe our regulations encompass and represent “a higher standard” than that of the UN model regulations  because of the chemicals allowed, overall pyrotechnic weights and construction requirements discussed  earlier. Applying a U.N. recommendation or a country of manufacture standard for goods that are destined  for export to another country with different rules is not appropriate, especially in this instance where we  believe our construction standards result in the production of a safer device. As an additional thought on  this issue, it was pointed out to me in a previous conversation that refrigerators manufactured in China for  export to the U.S. are built to meet our standards – 110V for instance, so they will work here. Refrigerators  manufactured in China for use in China are built to meet their standards – 220V for instance because that  is what will work there. Although fireworks and refrigerators are vastly different items the premise remains  the same – you manufacture the item so that it meets the laws and standards required by the country in  which the products are ultimately destined for use. This is where we need to get to with China on the issue of our U.S. 1.4G consumer fireworks.

The NFA is conducting some independent testing to check on the possible compliance of alternatives and  we are communicating with manufacturers and group associations in China to aide in the development of  solutions for both sides. Unfortunately, travel restrictions are preventing in person meetings and the  timeline is short, so communications are only of an electronic nature, phone and email.
All of these considerations are a transportation and storage safety issue and are not an intended function  issue. At no time during transportation or storage that we are aware of, have properly constructed, classed  and finished 1.4G fireworks bound for the United States ever resulted in a singular mass explosion incident  or performed in a way in such a scenario that was outside of the expected intended function of the fireworks  either here or abroad. This is a critical point and it is well documented throughout the past decades  following incidents of fire involving large quantities of stored U.S. 1.4G UN0336 fireworks product  imported from China. None of these incidents resulted in deaths or mass explosion incidents. The product  is well manufactured and safe from mass explosion hazards.
Rather than focusing too much on tube size, what is needed is a better mutual (China/US) understanding  of:
a) What really presents a mass explosion hazard in transportation and storage
b) What really causes a mass explosion hazard in transportation and storage
c) How to prevent a mass explosion hazard in transportation and storage
d) The subjectivity of interpretation by independent countries of the UN Recommended Model  Regulations and UN testing procedures and how those recommended model regulations are  sometimes at odds with themselves
e) How to properly construct legal documentation so that business and commerce can continue  between international countries and the safety concerns of everyone can be achieved.
What can you do at this time?
1) We have been getting notifications that Chinese brokers are calling people that have a few  containers with them that they must pay for the steel cages in order for their exports to be shipped because it is the only option. The NFA strongly recommends AGAINST this practice for reasons  outlined in point #2 above. We believe this is a knee jerk reaction/pressure tactic. There has been  no ruling that we are aware of that this is an actual requirement by Chinese CIQ. To just accept it  as a such and make it a “new normal” is an unnecessary economic burden and would likely have  very serious negative effects on possible future demands regarding shipments. You need to reject  this.
2) Forward any rumors that you may be hearing to me at so that the  NFA can address them, either through verification or through debunking them.
Together we will get through this latest issue. It is a significant one for sure and that is why communication  and information exchanges are so important. I look forward to communications with our members and  await the arrival of any further information you may have.

Stephen W. Houser
National Fireworks Association


Latest News

Proposed Revisions to ATF Theft/Loss Form

On October 9, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) published an information collection notice regarding proposed revisions to ATF Form 5400.5 – Report of Theft or Loss.

The form is being revised to include separate categories of loss with descriptions and example scenarios, as well as additional clarifications to improve user experience when completing the form.  Please view the Federal Register notice here as well as the proposed draft revision to Form 5400.5.

Public Comments on the revisions to the form are encouraged by the Agency and may be submitted by December 8, 2020, by email to: 

The APA Display Committee is currently reviewing the notice and will submit comments for the record

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There remains a lot of activity within China by the Liuyang Fireworks Association, Shanghai Fireworks Association, and influential manufacturers to negotiate relief from the reclassification of certain consumer fireworks (greater than 30mm) to 1.3G. The APA is continuing its efforts to engage PHMSA and the U.S. embassy as well as pursuing a Special Permit for the relabeling of shipping cartons after they are received by the consignee.


American Pyrotechnics Association Urges Congress to Act Now to Preserve the July 4th American Fireworks Tradition

American Pyrotechnics Association Urges Congress to Act Now to Preserve the July 4th American Fireworks Tradition Bethesda, MD, May 27, 2020 – Fireworks are among the most widely anticipated traditions of celebrating our nation’s independence. As the Fourth of July holiday rapidly approaches, there are widespread cancellations of community Independence Day celebrations nationwide due to social distancing mandates related to Covid-19.

The skies across the vast majority of our great nation will be dark this year, and potentially forever, unless congress provides a lifeline to the fireworks display industry in the next stimulus package. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), of the 16,000 Independence Day fireworks displays that typically occur nationwide annually in cities and towns, only a scant few will occur this year.

These nationwide cancellations have created significant financial hardship for the small, multigenerational family businesses who derive their livelihood from bringing communities together to celebrate their pride and patriotism on one day a year – Independence Day. “Covid-19 and the necessity for states, cities and townships to implement social distancing mandates has financially devastated the small family businesses who produce fireworks displays for community celebrations,” said APA Executive Director, Julie L. Heckman. “Independence Day only comes once per year; there is no do-over for the 4th of July,” Heckman added. Nationwide approximately 150 small family businesses, many of which are multi-generational, comprise the American fireworks display industry. Unlike other small businesses, these businesses are unique because they earn their livelihood from producing fireworks displays for Fourth of July community celebrations. “The fireworks industry is hyper-seasonal and without Independence Day celebrations, these family businesses aren’t just losing their bread and butter but rather, their entire livelihood is severely impacted,” said Heckman.

The APA is urging Congress to help these small family fireworks display businesses by modifying the current Economic Injury Disaster Loan program offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) with low interest and forgivable loans to help them bridge the gap of losing more than 80% of their income directly as a result of Covid-19.

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