During National Consumer Protection Week (March 5-11) the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reminding consumers about hazards associated with fuel containers, gasoline, and other liquid fuels. Vapors from these liquids are invisible and dangerous. Each year, thousands of people go to hospital emergency departments with burn injuries related to flammable liquids. Many burn incidents involve liquid fuel used outside on a backyard fire pit, a campfire, a bonfire, or burning trash. Other burn incidents involve liquid fuel used inside classrooms during chemistry experiments.
Portable fuel containers also can pose a serious injury risk to consumers. Portable fuel containers are defined as having a capacity of five gallons or less and include gas cans and containers sold with butane to refill cigarette lighters, charcoal lighter fluid, ethanol or bioethanol, fuels for small engines, and liquid fireplace fuels. If fuel vapor escapes from a fuel container and encounters a spark or flame, it can ignite and flashback into the container, causing an explosion that can severely burn those nearby.
Flame mitigation devices, such as flame arrestors, protect against flame jetting and container rupturing. Flame jetting is a phenomenon where an external ignition source – such as an open flame – causes a sudden ignition of fuel within a container and forcefully expels burning vapor and liquid from the mouth of the container, resulting in a blowtorch-like effect. Container rupturing is like flame jetting, except the burning vapor and liquid are expelled through a rupture in the container.
The Commission has been active recently in this area, implementing statutes with new mandatory requirements. CPSC is making gas cans and other fuel containers safer by requiring them to have flame mitigation devices. This new mandatory safety standard will go into effect in July 2023. Congress required the agency to put rules into place to protect consumers under the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act (PFCSA) of 2020. In addition, in December 2022, the Commission voted to update child resistance requirements for closures on portable gas cans, and diesel and kerosene containers. These requirements became effective on December 22, 2022.
Consumers can protect themselves and their children from injury by using fuel containers with child safety features and flame mitigation devices and by following these fuel container safety tips:
- Buy a gas can or portable fuel container that is child resistant.
- Keep gas cans and other portable fuel containers out of the reach of children.
- Never permit children to play with matches or fuel.
- Store gas cans and portable fuel containers in well-ventilated, cool areas only.
- Never leave fuel containers open, always put the cap back on after use.
- Store portable fuel containers in well-ventilated, cool areas only.
- Never store gas cans inside a house, basement, or near sources of ignition, such as fuel-burning appliances, open flames, pilot lights, stoves, heaters or electric mowers.
Backyard Fire Pits
- Never use gasoline to start a fire or to re-start a fire – even if you think the fire was not ignited.
- Only use appropriate fire starters and only before lighting the fire.
- Never add liquid fuel after trying to start a fire.
- Keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby.
- Never burn when the risk of wildfires is high.
- Do not wipe flammable liquids from your hands onto clothing. Spot clean and line dry clothes if flammable liquids are spilled.
At the gas station
- Never smoke near gasoline or at a gas station.
- Always place a gas can on the ground to fill up at the gas station.
- Do not use plastic bags or other inappropriate containers with gasoline or other flammable liquids.
To learn more about fuel container safety, visit CPSC’s Fuel Container, Gasoline and Other Liquid Fuel Safety Education Center.