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              (With apologies to the Marine training adage 'once you pull the pin, Mr Hand Grenade is no longer your friend... ')

   Far too many fires and burn injuries result from the careless or inappropriate use of gasoline.  Because gasoline is so common in our environment, we tend to think of it as safe.   While intended for use as a motor fuel, gasoline is commonly (and inappropriately) used as an insecticide,  accelerant,  solvent, weapon, intoxicant, paint remover, barbecue starter or cleaning fluid.    





       Gasoline has the dangerous combination of a low flash point combined with a high vapor density.   The flash point of a liquid is defined as the temperature above which the liquid produces vapors which can ignite or explode.  The flash point of gasoline is - 45 degrees F ( - 43 degrees C).  In practical terms, this means that at all temperatures above minus 45 degrees, liquid gasoline is producing vapor which can ignite or explode.  By comparison, the flash point of kerosene is 100 degrees F and the flash point of diesel fuel is 125 degrees F.

           The vapor density is defined as the ratio of density of the vapor of a substance to the density of air.  Air has a density of one.  Substances with a vapor density of less than one are lighter than air and tend to dissipate easily.  Substances with a vapor density greater than one are heavier than air and tend to accumulate in low places.  Gasoline has a vapor density of 3 to 4.  At normal temperatures, liquid gasoline is producing vapors that can catch fire, and which accumulate in low places.  These vapors can travel considerable distances from the spill point.  If you spill gasoline in the basement or in the garage, the flammable vapors can travel considerable distances and ignite from the pilot light of a hot water heater or furnace.   Many building codes require that garage mounted hot water heaters be elevated 18 or more inches above floor level for this reason.




Gasoline is intended for use as a motor fuel.  Certain lanterns and camping stoves are also designed for use of gasoline.  NEVER USE GASOLINE FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE !



NEVER use gasoline indoors!  



NEVER smoke while using gasoline or while refueling gasoline-powered devices.



NEVER use gasoline in a kerosene heater.  A small amount of gasoline will radically alter the flash-point of kerosene and the heater will likely explode



NEVER refuel a hot lawnmower or other gasoline-powered device.  Let the motor cool first.   And while we are on the subject, refuel the mower out of doors, not in the garage. 



If you spill gasoline on your clothes, stop what you are doing,  change clothes, and wash up.  We have all seen people burned several hours after spilling gasoline on their clothes when they light a cigarette or light a stove to cook dinner.  



NEVER use gasoline as an accelerant, intoxicant, solvent, cleaner, paint remover,  insecticide or weapon.   We already said this in point  # 1, above,  but it is worth repeating.



 If you use gasoline to start or rekindle the barbeque coals, at some point in your life  your next meal will be intravenous (the 'charcoal barbeque and martini syndrome', MacArthur, JD & Moore, FD: Epidemiology of burns JAMA  1975;231:259-263).  



       American Burn Association Prevention Committee  Campaign for Burn Awareness Week 2001:

                       Newsletter: Preventing Gasoline Burn Injuries 4 pages 64kb PDF  file       


                       Educator's Guide 17 pages, 112 kb PDF  format     gasoline Educator's Guide.pdf

                       Public Education Materials 9 pages, 93 kb, PDF  format gasolinepubed.pdf

                       Powerpoint Presentation on Gasoline Burns 628 kb

                                                                                                        PowerPoint Presentation

                       Additional Resources 3 pages, 12 kb PDF  format 

                                                                                                           Additional Resources.pdf

                      Media Guide and sample Public Service Announcements Media Guide.pdf





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Last modified: July 11, 2004