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Wayne Parsons
Wayne Parsons
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Do you have an exploding plastic gas can?

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A spark can happen anywhere and if you have a plastic gas can that you bought at Wal-Mart you may want to check out whether or not it has a small mesh filter – a "flame arrester" – placedin the throat of the spout. The mesh allows gas to flow out of the can but blocks a spark or flame from the outside from igniting the contents of the gas can. As gas is poured out of a can there is a vapor of fuel around the opening of the spout. That vapor can be ignited by a spark which as we all know, can happen anywhere. With a mesh flame arrester installed for gas can safety, the spark will simply make a harmless pop.

blitzgascan.jpg

Without the flame arrester the flame goes into the gas can, ignites the vapor in the can which in turn explodes the plastic container, showering all in the area with exploding burning gasoline. Injuries are always horrific and usually result in burns to over 50% of the body. Many of these burns happen to young boys.

The "flame arrestor" is a small piece of wire mesh that responsible metal gas can manufacturers have been installing in gas cans for 50 years. The cost is a few cents.

Dan Rather reported on the alarming numbers of people, mainly children, who were being burned by exploding case cans in a series of reports in 2008 and then revisited the story in 2011:

"Three years after the initial investigation, more data, and more deaths, manufacturers have not changed"

DALLAS (October 3, 2011) – This Tuesday’s “Dan Rather Reports” revisits an investigation into a product that sits in millions of garages across America – plastic consumer gas cans. These red plastic gas containers, sold in many retail locations, can unexpectedly explode, sometimes simply from contact with static electricity.

Independent studies have shown that the fix for this problem is cheap and easy, install a flame arrestor (a small screen in the nozzle) to prevent the gas from igniting in the can.

However, Blitz USA, the main producer of these plastic gas cans still has not begun to install these devices into their small consumer gas cans.

In the three years since the initial investigation, the gas can manufacturing industry agreed to fund independent testing and hired the prestigious Worchester Polytechnic Institute to conduct the tests. In three out of the four tests, the gas cans exploded.

Diane Breneman a consumer safety trial attorney has been after Blitz to correct the dangerous defect but the company has stubbornly refused to add the mesh piece in the spout of their gas cans. As reported by Dan Rather::

According to Diane Brenneman, an attorney representing many of the victims of these gas can explosions, even these results did not convince Blitz USA that changes needed to be made.

When asked what Blitz did in light of the study, Brenneman told Rather that they did, “absolutely nothing.”

Apparently the owners of Blitz value a few cents more than the life of a young boy. If someone can explain that to me I would appreciate hearing from them.

Who sells these gas cans?

The major manufacturer of plastic gas cans is Blitz USA out of Miami, Oklahoma. Wal-Mart sells Blitz as a primary supplier. There are 150 million Blitz plastic gas cans in homes and businesses across the country and in Canada. Do you have an exploding gas can in your garage?

Dan Rather has reported on the Blitz / Wal-Mart gas can problems:

If you haven’t heard the story before, Wal-Mart and its supplier Blitz USA have been repeatedly accused of selling gas cans that can explode if held near an open flame, shooting flaming gasoline in every direction. Experts say that a simple flame arrestor would make every can safe, and could be installed by the manufacturers for under $1 – and possibly as little as a few pennies. Wal-Mart and Blitz have of course denied any responsibility for the accidents, refused to take any action to make the cans safer, and actually deny that the cans can explode at all.

But the footage actually includes a clip of an exec on stage at a Manager’s meeting shamelessly joking about gas cans exploding. And another unbelievable SNL-style fake-ad skit where a supposed Wal-Mart worker jokes about starting fires with gasoline from gas cans.

The clip above is the bulk of the segment on Wal-Mart, although part 6 goes on to tell us that Wal-Mart and Blitz gas cans are actually countersuing one of the families whose son was badly burned in a gas can explosion.

Every day, something new and horrifying from Wal-Mart.

The exploding gas can danger could be solved for a few cents per can. The burns to the children will never go away.

Recently a news story from The Southeast Texas Record reports that Blitz was sued in Texarkana, Texas over a cheerleader who suffered massive burns from a Blitz gas can exploding. Blitz denies all responsibility:

TEXARKANA, Texas – The parents of a Texas high school cheerleader have filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a gas storage can after she suffered third degree burns when a friend attempted to pour gasoline on a camp fire.

Kenneth and Pam Crouch, individually and as next friends of Brooke Crouch, a minor, filed a lawsuit against Blitz U.S.A. Inc. on July 29 in the Eastern District of Texas, Texarkana Division.

According to the plaintiffs' complaint, the incident occurred on Dec. 18, 2009, as Brooke Crouch was sitting around a camp fire with high school friends. One of the boys attempted to rekindle the camp fire using a Blitz gas can.

Allegedly, the gasoline vapors were ignited outside of the can and flashed back inside it and exploded. Brooke was sitting across from the fire and the gasoline shot onto her hands and legs and under her cheerleading skirt causing severe third degree burns, according to the suit.

She was taken to a burn unit, required surgical procedures, skin grafting and extensive physical therapy.

The gas can manufacturer, Blitz U.S.A., is being sued for strict liability and negligence.

Gas can manufacturers all know about flame arresters and responsible companies make safe gas cans that are fitted with a flame arrester system blocking the nozzle. Some of the better flame arresters have spring-activated caps that close automatically and sparks from even entering the spout. But manufacturers like Blitz offer cheaper gas cans which uninformed conumers will buy not knowing the risks. The tactics of Blitz hurt companies that put safety ahead of profits.

If you have a plastic gas can, check to see if it has a flame arrester inserted in the nozzle and if it doesn't get rid of it. The cheap ones at the store are often lacking any safety precaution. And it doesn't matter how safe you try to be with a can because a simple spark from friction can trigger an explosion. Also make sure the gas can has a child proof safety cap. Those caps are required by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Children are often the innocent victims of an errant spark triggering an explosion while dad pours gas into the lawnmower.

Don't be like the family in Texas whose 2 year old was burned by an exploding gas can according to the website AboutLawsuits.com

A Texas couple is suing Wal-Mart and Blitz U.S.A. for a gas container explosion that caused their 2-year-old son to suffer severe burns across much of his body. The product liability lawsuit alleges that the Walmart gas can was defectively designed because it was sold without an effective child-proof cap.

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The injury occurred after the child’s father filled a lawnmower with gasoline and placed the gas container cap back onto the spout. A short time later, the toddler managed to pick the gas can up, remove the cap and carry it to a storage room. When the father saw the child near the container and a puddle of gasoline, he went to remove Roman from the storage room. However, as the child was being moved, the gasoline vapors ignited and the lower half of the child caught fire. As the father ran out of the room with his son, the gas container exploded, causing further injury.

According to the gas container lawsuit, the Blitz 1+ one gallon gas can only had a simple cap that required lining up arrows to remove and was ineffective as a child-resistant cap. The gas container also lacked a flame arrestor, which is a small metal mesh that could have prevented the flames from going back into the can.

The family purchased the gas container from Walmart in 2005, and included the retailer in the lawsuit, alleging that they affected the design of the gas can.

For years, gas containers were sold with minimal safety precautions built into the design. Because they were sold empty, manufacturers and retailers dodged laws in the Poison Prevention Packaging Act that required child safety caps on toxic and flammable substances.

The AboutLawsuits.com article points out that the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act required al gas cans sold after July 2009 to have safety caps, but not flame arresters.

2 Comments

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    Wayne,
    Thank you for sharing this. We are taking steps to protect ourselves today because of your article.