Fire risks of Kerosene lamps
Kerosene lamps have many danger and risk aspects that can lead to fires.
We have described a typical day of a woman in Africa and how kerosene lamps have a devastating effect on health and finances.
Here are the main reasons why kerosene lamps in developing countries are dangerous and can lead to fires:
4 fire risks of kerosene lamps:
(1) First of all many lamps are top-heavy and simply fall over when placed on a rough surface,
or when somebody accidentally touches the table it is standing on. Many hang from ceilings from rusty nails, old wires and other untrustworthy connections, which can make them fall anytime during the night or day.
India: Lamp topples, 2 kids burnt to death
TNN Feb 6, 2011, 06.41am IST
KOLKATA: Two children three-year-old Jhumpa Mandal and her one-and-a-half-year-old brother Vivek died after suffering severe burn injuries at Kultoli’s Jalaberia village in South 24-Parganas late on Friday. Their mother Draupadi, 24, too, has been admitted at a nearby hospital in critical condition.
The tragedy occurred after a kerosene lamp overturned inside their house. The lamp toppled onto the floor after Jhumpa accidentally touched it. The fire spread rapidly inside the house and both Jhumpa and Vivek suffered severe burns.
By the time local villagers rushed in to their rescue, the two children had died. Their father Rabi Mandal, a labourer, was not in the house at that time. Draupadi was rushed to Jamtala hospital in critical condition. (link)
(2) As good kerosene lamps are expensive, many people resort to making their own,
from old soda-cans, bottles or whatever is lying around. They are sold for less than a dollar on the markets as well.
These home-made devices do not have any safety measures at all. Often they leak kerosene (fluid or fumes) and children sometimes drink from these.
(3) Kerosene needs to be pure to be used safely in lamps:
Contaminating kerosene with even a small percentage of gasoline will cause a decrease in the flash point, will increase the vapor pressure, and creates a much more hazardous situation for the consumer overall (Lentini 1990).
The problem of contamination is particularly serious when it is combined with a lack of fire safety awareness and carelessness in handling fuels. (Shepherd, 2007)
Unfortunately, in developing countries, the safety regulations for transporting different fuels in the same truck/container are not as strict. Also many households need to collect kerosene in jerrycans that might have been used for other, more volatile, fuels, creating a huge danger of fire and explosions. Unfortunately news articles like these are too common:
India: “Kerosene lamp blast claims one more life
GUWAHATI: At a time when the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has blamed contamination of kerosene for the recent stove and lantern blasts and cautioned people against buying such product, one more lamp explosion has claimed a life in the Laukhowa area of South Salmara in Dhubri district.
Jonara Begum (33) succumbed to her burn injuries on Wednesday after she was injured in a kerosene lamp blast on Tuesday evening. “She was lighting a kerosene lamp on Tuesday evening when it exploded. She was admitted to the Phulbari hospital with burn injuries. She was immediately referred to the Goalpara Civil Hospital for better treatment. However on her way to Goalpara she succumbed to her injuries,” said a police official.” TNN Aug 3, 2011, 11.40pm IST
(4) Often there are open fires in the house (for cooking), and refilling is dangerous all the time.
Of course they will be empty after using, so in the dark, which means either another lamp should be close (fire risk) or it has to be done in the dark (spilling risk). Even if they are not used during the day, a leaking lamp that is just standing or hanging around (or gets accidentally kicked over) can create havoc.
Children are entrusted with filling and lighting lamps or stoves without any oversight or awareness of the hazards. Accidents with overturned lamps or stoves and spilled fuel are commonplace, in some cases causing burns and death. (Shepherd, 2007)
One more recent news story:
BE student dies of burns
HYDERABAD: A final year engineering student succumbed to burns he received while lighting a kerosene lamp.
According to Bhavani Nagar sub-inspector Azeemuddin, Mohammed Wasif, 22, lit a kerosene lamp when power went off at around 8.30 pm on Saturday. However, the kerosene lamp accidentally fell on a bottle containing kerosene which spilt on the floor. It immediately caught fire and Mohammed Wasif got engulfed in the flames and suffered 86 per cent burns. “He was shifted to Osmania General Hospital, but succumbed at 9.30 am on Sunday,” Azeemuddin said (link).
Again: the solution is so simple, it almost seems crazy that is has not been implemented worldwide: just use a solar-powered LED light and all of these horrible risks disappear in a flash. We -and many other good projects like ours- will not stop until all lamps are replaced.
- 1 Alleviate poverty Reduce poverty by saving 25% of household costs!
- 2 Health benefits removing toxic and dangerous kerosene from households
- 3 Prevent fire hazards Kerosene lamps are leading cause of house fires
- 4 Enabling education Students can study better & longer, more money for books
- 5 Save our planet Stop global warming, deforestation and pollution
- 6 Increase income Light at night can create additional income streams
- 7 Empowering women LED lights create a brighter future for women and girls
- 8 Empower communities Light generates joint income, offers new possibilities
- 9 Increase safety bringing light in houses and community
- 10 Solar education Teach students and entrepreneurs about solar