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Consumer Reports warns parents about novelty lighters

May 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every year fires caused by lighters kill dozens of people, and most of the victims are children. Consumer Reports warns about some newer lighters that are especially enticing to kids.

"I wanted to know how a lighter worked, and it took me like one time to just light it," said burn victim Tegan Ferguson.

That one time resulted in Tegan getting badly burned when he was 5 years old. He has to have surgeries and skin grafts until he's an adult.

"It's something that I would have never imagined to happen," said Amber Ferguson, Tegan's mother.

Tegan was injured with a lighter used to start grills. There are other lighters widely available that are even more tempting to children. Consumer Reports warns of novelty lighters that look a lot like toys.

"Even the Lighter Association, the industry trade group for traditional lighters, has called for a nationwide ban on the sale and distribution of novelty lighters," said Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports director of the Consumer Safety and Sustainability Group. "Yet they're available for sale in most states, as well as online."

Most lighters, including novelty lighters, are required by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to have some kind of "mechanism that makes the lighter child-resistant." But that doesn't mean lighters are childproof. In fact, Tegan's mother says the lighter he was playing with had a safety catch, but it didn't keep him from getting badly burned.

"You need to store lighters and matches out of children's reach. And never underestimate their curiosity about fire or their ability to use a lighter," said Rangan.

Some state and local governments have banned the sale and distribution of novelty lighters, but unfortunately the state of California is not one of them.

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