Accidents involving gasoline are a
major cause of thermal burns in the US. Thousands of people visit
hospital emergency rooms each year for treatment of gasoline-related burns.
These accidents are often associated with careless use (misuse) of gasoline.
Most accidents occur in the summer months, due to an increased use of
gasoline for farming, yard work, and recreational purposes (e.g., boating).
A lack of understanding of the explosive nature of gasoline by the general
public contributes to both its improper storage and to its misuse as a
solvent, engine primer, or fire starter. Gasoline burns decrease markedly in
winter months, except for burns associated with carburetor priming to start
A relatively common cause of burn injuries involves pouring gas into a
carburetor in an attempt to start a car. When a vehicle runs out of fuel, an
airlock can develop in the fuel line between a newly filled gas tank and the
carburetor. To provide an adequate fuel/air mixture, gas may be placed
directly into the carburetor to prime the engine.
Priming carburetors is a dangerous and unnecessary practice and can
produce explosion or fire!
Explosions may occur by 3 mechanisms:
- Contact of the gasoline or its vapors with hot metal (i.e., the
- Ignition caused by an electrical spark from the electrical system of
- Ignition due to excessive gasoline in the intake manifold, causing
Backfires and explosions can cause burns. The
occurrence of these injuries is often underestimated since many are small
flash burns. Typically, the burns occur to the face, neck and arms. This
type of injury is most common in young adult males.