Huge lighters a high explosion risk, experts warn

January 12, 2010

Experts have voiced concern over the large lighters that have recently proliferated in street stalls in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, warning they implied high risk of explosion.

Over the past few weeks people driving past and walking on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Bui Vien and Ly Thuong Kiet streets in HCM City have seen huge lighters put on display on pushcarts together with other items like helmets and socks.

Some street vendors have just piled them up on the ground.

The lighters which are five times bigger than the common ones, are sold at VND20,000-35,000 (US$1.08-1.89) apiece.

A seller at the junction of Truong Dinh and Tu Xuong streets in District 3 said a lighter was sold at VND20,000, but those that used batteries cost VND25,000, and those with two lights at the bottom cost VND35,000.

While sellers advertise them as “Thai lighters”, Thanh Nien reporters observed the devices were printed with labels in Chinese with different logos like the earth or Bodhisattva Kuan-yin.

The owner of one of the four stalls selling the lighters at Kim Bien Market in District 5 said he sold them for between VND14,000-16,000 apiece to retailers.

Kim Lien from District 4 said: “I found them [lighters] strange so I bought one to give it a try. But it’s a bit scary because the fire comes out very strongly with just a little push. I have never seen such huge lighter before.”

Lien isn’t the only one who bought the lighters for their huge size. Some customers told Thanh Nien they bought the devices because they are bigger with more gas and therefore more advantageous than common ones.

Experts in gas safety techniques disagree.

Nguyen Kha, in charge of safety at Saigon Petro Company, said there was a chance that the huge lighter used a mix between high pressure and low pressure gas to save money instead of just the low pressure one as regulated to guarantee safety.

Therefore, “the new lighter implies a very high risk of explosion,” Kha said, stressing that it was made of crispy plastic while containing a large amount of gas, making the risk much higher.

Agreeing with Kha, Le Phuc Dai, general director of Vinagas Company, was concerned that refilling of the lighters would increase risks of explosions and fires as well.

“It’s very likely the lighters were smuggled [into Vietnam]. The city’s market management agency will strengthen inspections, especially of distributors,” said Le Xuan Dai, deputy head of HCMC Market Management Agency.

Made in Vietnam

The giant lighters began selling in Hanoi a couple of months ago.

Tam, director of Tam Giang Ltd., Co., which distributes the lighters to stalls in Dong Xuan Market and others, said: “The lighter is a hot item now; young people are hunting for them to play around at night.”

Tam said the lighters were produced in Vietnam, guaranteeing that their safety was very high and could be re-used by refilling gas.

Nguyen Thi Hang, who claimed to be the representative of Long Dang Company headed by a Chinese man in the northern province of Lang Son, said her company was the only one to produce the lighters in Vietnam.

According to Hang, the lighters were selling like hot cakes.

“Now we don’t have enough goods to distribute to HCMC because the demand there is very great. We are only supplying to our agency in Hanoi.”

Reported by Thanh Nien staff

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