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Thursday, June 30, 2011  
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Stay Safe this Fourth of July
Tips for safely celebrating America’s independence.

The Fourth of July is a wonderful time for family and friends to kick back and relax together. Many people roll out blankets and watch local parades while others show off their skills behind the grill. No matter what your tradition, the day is bound to be filled with food, sun and fireworks, and the best way to enjoy it all is to enjoy it without interruption, so here are a few tips from the experts:
 
1. Brush Up on BBQ 101: Make sure you protect yourself before chowing down. To prevent harmful bacteria from causing foodborne illness, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a few simple steps: First, make sure food (especially meat) is kept cold while being transported. Insulated coolers or ice packs should keep items at 40 degrees or below. If you’re precooking food in the microwave or oven, remember that it needs to find its way to a preheated grill immediately afterward. Meats should be cooked thoroughly and checked with a food thermometer to ensure they are ready for consumption. Excited to eat? Just be careful to grab a clean plate and utensils that haven’t touched raw meat – and enjoy. For more food safety tips from the USDA, visit www.fsis.usda.gov.
 
2. Have Safe Fun in the Sun: The Fourth of July is all about being outdoors; from parades to cookouts, it’s a time to enjoy all that summer has to offer. Unfortunately, however, strong ultraviolet rays can be a dangerous addition to your festive events. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge the public to keep skin health in mind during all outdoor festivities. The group recommends liberal use of sunscreen with at least SPF 15, hats with wide brims to protect the face, neck and ears, sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB block and ample sources of shade to give your body a break from the sun. Learn more about skin cancer prevention at www.cdc.gov.
 
3. Enjoy Fireworks Without Starting a Fire: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the risk of a fireworks-related injury is two-and-a-half times as high for children ages five to nine and teens ages 15 to 19 as for the general population. With thousands of adults and kids suffering from these injuries every Fourth of July, the NFPA is rightfully motivated to get the word out about fireworks safety. Their first tip is to leave the show to the professionals, and make sure children are not able to reach fireworks leftover from the display afterward, since they may still be active. Sparklers and firecrackers are also dangerous, and burn at temperatures hot enough to cause third degree burns. So, while the bright bursts of color are always an Independence Day necessity, most experts would agree that they are best enjoyed from afar. Check out www.nfpa.org for more info.
 
Whether the celebration includes lots of kids or activities for the older crowd, protecting your skin, stomach and more are vital to having a great day. Many folks like to spend the entire day outside, so make sure you’ll last the entire morning, afternoon and evening safe and sound. For more information about July 4, as well as safety tips related to boating, camping, swimming, traveling and more, visit www.usa.gov/Topics/Independence_Day.shtml.

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