President Bush has signed an Act into law which will require that all portable gasoline containers sold on or after January 17, 2009 have a child resistant cap. The law closes a loophole which existed in prior legislation and is designed to decrease the risk of a gas can explosion or spill, which could cause severe injuries and burns.
The Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act was introduced by Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat from Kansas, and Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican from Alabama. Moore spearheaded the legislation after he learned of a tragic gasoline burn suffered by two children under the age of four in his home state of Kansas. The two children managed to remove the cap from a gas can in the family’s home, which resulted in a spill near the hot water heater. When the family’s gas can exploded, one of the boys was killed and the other suffered severe burns.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 1,200 children under the age of five are treated in the emergency room every year for gasoline-related injuries. These injuries include burns, as well as internal injuries from swallowing gas or inhaling the fumes. Supporters of the new law hope that the child resistant caps will help prevent many of these gasoline related injuries.
“Children and gasoline don’t mix,” said the U.S. CPSC in a press release issued after President Bush signed the Act into law. “With the passage of the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act, an additional layer of fire safety and burn protection has been added for families across the country.”
Despite the minimal cost of the safety feature, most gas can makers have refused to add the special caps on their own. Similar requirements are already in place for other flammable liquids, such as charcoal lighter fluid, turpentine, and torch fuel. However, the makers of plastic gasoline containers have relied on a loophole in prior legislation, which does not require the canisters to contain the safety caps since they are sold empty.
The new law will require that all gas cans sold have the child resistant caps within the next six months. There is currently no indication from any of the manufacturers who have sold portable gasoline cans without the safety caps, that they intend to issue a gas can recall to add the safety caps to older containers.
To reduce the risk of gas container explosions or burns, the U.S. CPSC has issued a series of safety tips for consumers.
- Buy a child-resistant gasoline container.
- Keep the container in a cool and well-ventilated area.
- Never store fuel inside the house or near a fuel-burning appliance, an open flame or any other sources of ignition.
- Keep fuels out of reach of children.
- Never smoke near areas where the fuel is stored or used.