National Children's Center For Rural and Agricultural Health logo feature

Jun 21, 2024
Gasoline dangers highlighted by children’s farm safety group

A farm safety group is warning farm families about the dangers of handling gasoline.

Telling the story of a farm family child that died handling gasoline, the The National Children’s Center For Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety demands safe practices and safe containers.

Christopher Allsup

Using gasoline to start or keep a fire burning is an extremely dangerous act that is all too common in American barnyards and backyards, according to a news release.

Jane Allsup, of Winterset, Iowa, lost her 10-year-old son, Christopher, when an outdated portable gasoline container exploded as he attempted to rekindle the previous night’s fun sitting by the fire on their family farm. Newspaper and matches didn’t work, so Christopher sprinkled the damp, smoldering logs with gasoline. He unknowingly stood in a cloud of highly flammable vapors escaping from an old, unsafe container, and the vapors ignited when contacted by an ember.

Since that tragic day in 2013, Jane Allsup and The Legacy of Christopher Allsup Foundation have told Christopher’s story. Thanks to Allsup and others’ safety advocacy, gasoline handling policy and education have improved. However, due to the prevalence of gasoline in farm work, yard work, and recreation, the risk of explosion remains.

Thousands of Americans are treated each year for burn injuries related to gasoline. Safe practices, such as never using gasoline to start a fire, are key to reducing injuries. But what of those plastic gasoline containers? Tens of millions of them, many outdated and unsafe, line the shelves of rural and suburban America, according to the release.

Flame mitigation devices, known as flame arrestors, are required on all new gas cans. The safety device can save children’s lives.

 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) now requires all new gas cans and other fuel containers to have flame mitigation devices, known as flame arrestors. A flame arrestor could have saved Christopher’s life. A flame arrestor is a mesh screen built into the spout. It allows gasoline to flow out of a portable gas container but will dissipate flashback flames and prevent an explosion.

One gallon of gasoline is estimated to possess the explosive force of 14 sticks of dynamite.

“The dangers of gasoline are often unknown or underestimated by those handling it,” Allsup, whose foundation conducts gas can exchanges each year, said in the release. “People don’t realize they are standing in a highly flammable vapor cloud. This can lead to tragedy, particularly in the agricultural community where onsite fueling is common and where youth are often involved in the handling and using gasoline.”

National Children's Center For Rural and Agricultural Health logo feature

 

Christopher was a loving, vibrant, happy young man, Allsup said in the release. She and her family miss his hugs, smiles, and conversations. She draws some strength from raising awareness about gasoline container safety.

“If I can get people to think about this and talk to their children about gasoline safety, that keeps me going, knowing that I might save a life,” she said in the release.

Christopher’s story and more information about gasoline handling safety can be found at Telling the Story Project. The project features personal accounts, embedded with prevention messages, of families and individuals directly affected by injuries and close calls.

Telling the Story Project is a collaboration of three agricultural safety centers funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety; Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center; and Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center, University of Minnesota. Also partnering is the National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wis.

For more information about the not-for-profit Legacy of Christopher Allsup Foundation, Inc., visit its website and Facebook page.


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