The permitted clear and non-perfumed variant of these fuels is being sold in increasing quantities. Unfortunately, even the smallest quantities of these dangerous fuels are sufficient to cause serious lung damage. In these accidents children usually drank from the unsafe oil lamps. Paraffin can easily get into the lungs and cause chemical pneumonia, in the worst case this can be lethal.
However, relatively simple technical measures can ensure a child-safe design for oil lamps so that such accidents can be avoided. Since the manufacturers and distributors of oil lamps have not been active so far, the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), in co-operation with the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), has designed a child-safe burner for oil lamps and oil lanterns. The design will be provided to manufacturers and distributors of oil lamps and lanterns free of charge.
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and its predecessor institutes have made efforts to co-operate with industry to reduce the risk of poisoning by lamp oil through awareness campaigns and improvements to legal regulations for over ten years. Child-safe catches on the containers, warnings and the prohibition of coloured and perfumed paraffin-based lamp oils brought many improvements. Nevertheless, there is still a risk which cannot be neglected: German paediatric clinics reported about 70 poisonings of children with lamp oil, some of them serious, within the BfR monitoring alone in 2006. Most children drank from unsafe oil lamps or oil lanterns filled with clear and non-perfumed paraffin-based oil. Although a European Standard (DIN EN 14059), which stipulates the safety provisions and test procedures for oil lamps for decorative purposes has been in existence due to the initiatives of BfR since 2003, the manufacturers and distributors have so far neglected to develop and market child-safe oil lamps for the home. Also, very few child-safe oil lamps and lanterns are available for open-air use.
Because of their concern for child health, the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) and the BfR, have developed a draft design for a child-safe burner for lamp oils. It is a simple and very inexpensive item, which can be manufactured with little technical effort, and existing oil lamps can be adapted. The burners are designed so that children cannot open this oil lamp and drink from it nor can they get easy access to the wick. BAM, as the responsible authority, is providing this draft design to manufacturers and distributors free of charge via the internet. The industry can convert it into their own marketable products in order to meet the regulations of product safety. The law requires that products may not endanger the health of the consumer when used correctly or in anticipated improper use.
It has to be emphasised in connection with the activities of BAM and BfR that the less dangerous substitutes for lamp oils based on biodiesel, mineral oil or coco oil only make up a small fraction of the oil on sale. After the prohibition of the dangerous coloured and perfumed paraffin-based oils, consumers mostly moved to the permitted clear and non-perfumed paraffin. Therefore the danger remains that children get poisoned by this lamp oil through inappropriate use of unsafe oil lamps.
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