New Law to Protect Children from Gasoline Burns Requires ASTM Standard

A new law approved by Congress will help protect children from gasoline burns by requiring that portable gasoline containers have child-resistant closures that conform to ASTM F2517, Standard Specification for Determination of Child Resistance of Portable Fuel Containers for Consumer Use. Congressman Dennis Moore, D-Kan., introduced and then won bipartisan support for the Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act after learning of a tragic incident involving two children in Kansas. A four-year-old boy lost his life and his younger brother was permanently scarred after they opened a gas can and spilled its contents near a hot water heater. In 2005 alone, nearly 1,400 children were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to gasoline containers, according to ASTM.

By requiring the ASTM standard, the Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act closes a loophole that exempted gas cans, which are sold empty, from stricter child-resistance requirements for packaging for household products that contain dangerous materials. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the new law "finally closes that loophole, giving parents one less thing they will have to worry about." McCaskill successfully advocated for the measure in the Senate, which unanimously approved the legislation in June.

The new law includes a test method to improve the safety of gas cans and help prevent burn injuries to children resulting from gasoline storage. At a Congressional hearing last year, Sally Greenberg of Consumers Union testified in support of the legislation, noting that child-resistant gas can closures will help protect against accidental poisoning and chemical burns in addition to thermal burns. According to one American Academy of Pediatrics study of gasoline burn incidents, "no injury is potentially more disfiguring, disruptive to a child's life, and more painful to endure than burn injuries." Remarking on final passage of the Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act, Moore added, "We can't protect our children from every scratch or bruise, but we can certainly take steps to avoid the obvious hazards. Too many children have already been injured or killed in these horrible accidents."

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