Gas Cans & Childhood Burn Injuries

AKRON - Burn injuries are among the most disfiguring and potentially serious bodily injuries. Childhood burns can cause long-term suffering and result in permanent physical and mental scars as well as lead to years of rehabilitation.

Childhood burns are known to result from accidental ignition of gasoline stored near a flame.

Dr. Christopher S. Kennedy and associates at the Children's Mercy Hospital, together with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine reviewed cases seen in their emergency departments for burn injury risks associated with home storage of gasoline and outlined possible strategies to avoid related burn injury and death.

The study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics (1997;vol.99,p.e3), reported data about 25 childhood burn victims who were seen in Children's Mercy Hospital over a one year period.

The data showed that 95% of the gas can burn victims were boys. The average age of the children was 2.7 years. The source of ignition of the gasoline was a pilot light in ALL cases (4 gas dryers, 21 hot water heaters)!

Vapors were ignited in 56% of the cases and the gas can was described as closed in 64%.

Eleven children died as a result of their burn injuries.

All 25 cases were associated with gasoline storage cans that were not structurally sound or child-proof.

The authors noted that gasoline burn injuries account for nearly 15,000 emergency department visits annually in the United States. They recommend standardization of leak-proof (for both vapors and liquid) gas cans. Further, they recommend that gasoline be stored in a shed or garage in a locked cabinet, and in a well-ventilated area. No pilot light or other flame source should be within 50 feet of the storage location.

Public awareness through the media and fire safety courses will also help decrease the risks of childhood burns caused by gasoline storage.

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