They may look like toys, but they're definitely not for kids.
"They" are novelty cigarette lighters shaped to look like animals, miniature cars, mobile phones, cameras, doll accessories - even a rubber ducky bath toy.
And building awareness of them is the goal of University of Michigan burn experts and other fire-prevention leaders during this year's National Arson Awareness Week, which began Sunday.
The goal is to focus public attention on the dangers of these "novelty" lighters in the hands of children. Toy-like lighters have been responsible for accidents, injuries, and even deaths across the country, mostly caused by children who were attracted to them because they looked like toys.
"The potential risk for accidental injury is very high," said Karla Klas, RN, Injury Prevention Education Specialist at the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center. "Even parents can be fooled into thinking these lighters are toys and buy them for their kids. Children pick one up to play with and no one knows it's dangerous until the damage is done. Not only are burn injuries a risk," Klas added, "but more than half of all fires that kill children under five years old are started by children playing with fire in the home."
U.S. Fire Administration data indicate that lighters play a role nearly equal to matches in residential child-play fires. When children set fires in the home, the most common area of fire origin is the bedroom, and the material ignited is often bedding or clothing.
Some local and state governments are taking action by banning the sale of toy-like novelty lighters or limiting their distribution. Michigan Senate Bill 1194 regulating the sale of novelty lighters was proposed by State Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and is currently before the Committee on Commerce and Tourism.
"It is not enough to warn children of the dangers of these lighters," said Andy Neumann, State Fire Marshal. "Legislation is necessary to protect children from the serious consequences of unintended misuse."
The U-MTraumaBurn Center (TBC) is an internationally recognized leader in patient care, research and rehabilitation. The TBC is verified as both a Burn Center and a Level-1 TraumaCenter. Its programs address preventable injuries to children, adolescents and adults as well as the medical and social consequences of injury and disability. It is committed to community education on prevention, consequences and treatment of traumatic injury.
Written by: Kara Gavin