Gas Cans Under Fire, Again

We’ve previously written about the alleged dangers of portable gas cans and the 5 cent part that could make them safer.  Last week NBC’s Today Show ran an interesting segment showing some of the scientific testing that has been done with regards to the potential for explosion.   According to the segment, there have been 11 reported deaths and 1,200 emergency room visits involving gas can explosions during the pouring of gasoline since 1998. The  danger allegedly stems from what is known as “flashback.”   Tests conducted at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s labs show that under certain limited conditions a flashback explosion can occur inside a plastic gas can, when gas vapor escaping the can contacts a source of ignition such as a flame or a spark.  From the testing, it appears that this only happens when there is a small amount fuel left in the can and it is tilted a severe angle.

The solution that has been proposed by a number of experts and plaintiff’s attorneys is a what is known as a “flame arrester.”  It is basically a metal mesh plug that keeps a flame ignited outside of the can from traveling into the can and causing an explosion.   The “gas can industry” is supposedly still looking into whether flame arresters are necessary or effective.   All gas cans currently have general safety warnings printed on them telling users to keep away from flames and electric motors.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission’s official position since 2009 has been that is that it is investigating whether flame arrester should be mandatory.  However,  a spokesperson from the CPSC recently told USA Today that they would like to see  standards commission incorporate flame arrestor technology in consumer gas cans.


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