5 On Your Side

Exploding lighters still sold in U.S.

A warning for the millions of people who use disposable lighters: Many have a dangerous flaw that allows the flame to continue burning even after the lighter's been shut off.

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Many disposable lighters have a dangerous flaw that allows the flame to continue burning even after the lighter's been shut off, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Ricky Clemmer's brother Bill died after his lighter exploded, burning him severely.

"From his waist up, he was just burnt up. I mean black," Ricky Clemmer said.

The family hired experts to figure out what happened. They concluded that design flaws caused Bill Clemmer's lighter to fail.

After he lit his cigarette, the lighter should have shut off. Instead, the experts said, a small flame continued to burn under the flame guard. Fuel leaked out, evaporated into his clothes and caught fire.

That kind of lighter is still on store shelves, in part, because the U.S. has no mandatory – only voluntary – safety standards regarding lighters.

In 2006, the CPSC concluded that 70 percent of Chinese lighters did not meet those standards. Most of the 2 million lighters sold each day in the U.S. are made in China.

The CPSC also reported that lighter malfunctions caused more than 900 injuries each year.

So far, the agency has not taken any action on its findings.

In a statement to WRAL's 5 on Your Side, a spokesman wrote that the CPSC has a "proven record" of investigating dangerous lighters, but "at this time, our hard-working staff is actively engaged in efforts to save lives and prevent injuries from ... many other product dangers."

Ricky Clemmer said he has a message for the CPSC.

"Do your job. If you're going to make regulations and protect people, make regulations to protect people, and don't be half-hearted about it," he said. "You can't pay me for what happened to my brother. I'll have nightmares for the rest of my life thinking about this."

U.S. companies typically meet the voluntary standards, so look for domestic-made lighters. Otherwise, it's buyer beware.

If you've had a problem with a lighter, report it to the CPSC online.

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