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Exploding Gas Cans Possibly Fixed With Small Mesh Part

4:37 PM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- There's an alert about an item either you have, or you know someone who has. It's not major, and you probably don't think about it until you need it. But depending on how you use your portable gas can, yes, the little red plastic container, you could be at risk. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is calling on the gas can industry to make a change.

Clark Fouraker with our News partner WLTX has more on the investigation into gas cans. Clark said, "It turns out a number of them are made without something in the spout that costs just five cents."

Lexington (S.C.) attorney Billy Walker said, "People need to know that red gas can in their garage or out in the storage house, it could be a bomb." Walker has litigated gas can explosion cases for the past seven years. During that time, he's used video experiments prepared by an expert witness to show the possible dangers of using the common red gas can. He said, "When people get burned by this, it is horrific."

Lexington (S.C.) attorney Billy Walker said, "People need to know that red gas can in their garage or out in the storage house, it could be a bomb." Walker has litigated gas can explosion cases for the past seven years. During that time, he's used video experiments prepared by an expert witness to show the possible dangers of using the common red gas can. He said, "When people get burned by this, it is horrific."

Walker explained that a small mesh screen called a flame arrestor could prevent the gas can from exploding. He said the mesh of a flame arrestor prevents a flame or heat source from getting into the can when pouring. "This wire mesh will dissipate the heat and keep the flame itself from entering the can."

Walker has filed a federal lawsuit against Blitz USA -- the company that makes the can that blew up. The lawsuit claims the lack of a flame arrestor made the gas can dangerous to users. Walker said, "The can is designed so poorly that when you pour it and pull it back up, it sucks that heat source into the can and causes the can to explode." 

Blitz USA filed a response denying all claims that their product, which lacked flame arrestor, was unsafe. Still, the Materials Information Society published in 2010 that "an inexpensive screen flame arrestor can prevent these types of events from occurring." 

Major Darwin Fulwood, Assistant Director of Public Safety with the Cayce (S.C.) Dept of Public Safety said, "I believe it's been proven that the arrestors are doing their job ... I guess that's my point. On the research I've seen, nobody is saying they don't work. So, if they're inexpensive and they work, why not use them?" Fulwood has been called to scenes where a gas can caught fire while someone was filling up lawn equipment, although he says he's never seen the can explode. Fulwood went on to say, "Anything that would eliminate somebody getting hurt for a few of dollars is well worth the expense. I would think ..."

Gas cans already have general safety warning printed on them. The warnings tell users to keep away from flames and electric motors. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission believes  flame arrestors will make the cans more safe. They say they want the gas can industry to make a change. They issued a statement saying "the CPSC is calling on the industry to regain the momentum that was lost in years past by designing their products to include this safety technology."

But the Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association says it would be irresponsible to incorporate flame arrestor technology. They issued a statement saying, "It would be irresponsible to incorporate flame arrestor technology as we understand it today in either our products or the voluntary standards governing our products before it's proven to be effective and safe. Our industry encourages CPSC to lend their expertise and resources to search for a workable solution."

Both the CPSC and PFCMA sit on a flame arrestor task force that is currently testing designs that could lead to product modification.

FULL PFCMA Statement Regarding CPSC Statement Regarding Flame Arrestors

"The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently released a statement expressing a desire to see flame arrestor technology incorporated in portable consumer gas cans as well as a desire to see requirements for flame arrestors as a part of the voluntary standards setting process.

The Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association (PFCMA) welcomes the input of CPSC as they are members of the American Standards for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Subcommittee for Portable Fuel Containers and are able, at any time, to supply data, suggestions, and other input into the standard setting process.

For the past several years, our industry has been working with ASTM, alongside representatives from CPSC, Underwriters Laboratories, and others, on a multi-phase and independent scientific study to understand if there is a way to safely and effectively incorporate flame arresters into gas cans. While there is currently no flame arrestor technology in the marketplace or in concept phase that has been proven safe and effective for portable consumer gas cans, ASTM is in the process of testing potential solutions.

Because gasoline is an inherently dangerous product, it is important that any design changes increase, rather than decrease, the safety of gas cans, which are used by consumers over three (3) billion times each year. It is never safe to mix gasoline and fire and no device will ever make it safe to misuse the product by exposing gasoline to flame or other ignition sources.

This three-phase study has been conducted through the ASTM Flame Arrestor Task Group, which includes representatives of the industry, consumer safety experts, plaintiffs' experts, and others. The phases include:

Phase I -- Determine whether or not it is possible for a flame to propagate inside a portable consumer gas can resulting in internal combustion; and develop an experimental methodology to replicate the phenomenon. (This phase has been completed and identified extremely limited parameters under which the phenomena of internal combustion can occur, including very small amounts of gasoline, a specific tilt angle, and low temperature.)

Phase II - Develop an experimental platform to test various flame arrestor concepts that may prevent internal combustion. (Results of this phase have just been released, identifying potential approaches that merit further study. It has been recommended that further prototype sample tests and research are conducted before conclusions can be formed about the effectiveness of any mitigation strategy. Current flame arrestors available in industrial safety cans have failed the test protocol for mitigation.)


Phase III -- Determine if there are any unintended consequences from the incorporation of flame arrester concepts identified in Phase II, including long-term exposure to fuel, durability, effects on product functionality, and any possible adverse effects on consumer safety under proper use.

Although the parameters for combustion inside a portable consumer gas can have been found to be extremely limited, the PFCMA and its members will continue to support and participate in study of flame mitigation devices to determine if a feasible new product design utilizing such a device can be developed which is both appropriate and safe. If a product design incorporating a new device is developed for portable fuel containers, PFCMA or its members will present it for review and consideration by the ASTM Subcommittee, under which this study is governed. Like the industry has done in the past with child resistance, if a new safe and effective standard is promulgated, the industry will embrace it.

It would be irresponsible to incorporate flame arrestor technology as we understand it today in either our products or the voluntary standards governing our products before it is proven to be effective and safe. Our industry encourages CPSC to lend their expertise and resources to the search for a workable solution.

WLTX, WFMY News 2

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