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The Tennessean reported today on another tragedy involving a gas can and a young child. Young Dylan Snider of Spring Hill was severly burned when a gas can exploded when he was near a bonfire. The child is at Vanderbilt’s Burn Center I am sure under the outstanding care of Dr. Jeffery Guy.

This type of injury occurs far to often and is completely preventable.

If you have a yard and mow your own lawn, chances are you own a plastic gasoline can. Most people think of these red, plastic gas cans as cheap and effective for storing and dispensing gas. But what most people don’t know is that these gas cans, under certain usage situations, are exploding fire bombs. Thousands of children and adults have been severely burned or killed by exploding gasoline cans.

Another thing most people don’t know is that gasoline can manufacturers have known how to prevent these explosions for decades with the addition of a simple and inexpensive "flame arrestor." It is documented that miners in the early 1800’s knew about and used this technology. A flame arrester is nothing more than a thin wire mesh located in the gas can spout. It costs just pennies to produce and place in a gas can. The mesh allows the gas to come out, but keeps flames from igniting gasoline vapors inside the gas can and causing the can to explode. Typically gas can explosions occur when gasoline vapor from the can is exposed to a nearby open flame and the vapor carries the flame back into the can causing a violent explosion which engulfs the user and bystanders in a fireball. I know of one case were the flame traveled over twenty feet to ignite the can. Most likely this is exactly what happened to young Dylan. Hopefully his parents have kept the can so its manufacturer can be determined and held accountable for his injuries.

The larger plastic gasoline can manufacturers like Blitz USA, Inc., Midwest Can, Scepter Manufacturing and the Plastics Group, knew or should have known about the gas can explosion danger and further, how to protect the gas can users. Professional grade gas cans have been equipped with flame arresters and spring-activated caps, which close automatically and ensure that vapors don’t escape, or oxygen doesn’t migrate into the can to mix with the vapors. Gas vapors are heavier than air and thus travel and stay close to the ground rather than disipating.

In January 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) required all plastic gasoline cans to come equipped with a child resistant safety cap. However, there are tens of thousands of plastic gasoline cans still in use which are defective and unsafe, especially for children.

What parents and especially children do not understand, is how easily gasoline vapors can ignite. A nearby open flame, a natural gas pilot light, and even static electricity can ignite gasoline vapor and cause a gas can to explode. When this is done in the vicinity of a gas can, it can lead to disaster.

My prayers are with Dylan and his family.

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