June 25, 2018

Fuels that light the grill and tiki torches for your backyard barbecues can also pose safety risks.


As summer heats up along with grills at backyard barbecues, we must keep our minds not only on hamburgers and hotdogs but also on safety when using common fuels and accelerants.

The Tennessee Poison Center, housed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, warns about the hidden hazards when firing up the grill, such as the accidental ingesting of various fuels by adults and children.

Fuels used to prepare for a backyard barbecue such as lighter fluid for the grill, gasoline for a lawn mower and tiki torch fuel to light an evening event, can result in aspiration and possibly lead to chemical pneumonitis if accidentally ingested, according to Donna Seger, M.D., medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center and clinical professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The ingestion of those hydrocarbons pose an aspiration concern,” Seger said. “If ingested we don’t want people to vomit. If they are coughing or trying to catch their breath after the ingestion they need to seek emergency help at the hospital,” Seger said.

She stressed that it may not be necessary to go to the hospital in every case of accidental ingestion.

Some accelerants, like lighter fluid, do not pose a systemic toxicity risk and can stay in the stomach and pass through natural process.

A person who has ingested gasoline should not eat or drink for a half an hour or more, and should not smoke. Diarrhea may result and burping the smell of gasoline for up to 24 hours is expected. A person experiencing persistent coughing or vomiting should receive emergency treatment.

Tiki torch fuel, if swallowed, can cause continuous coughing, choking and vomiting. If coughing and other symptoms continue, a trip to the emergency room is in order for evaluation.

The Tennessee Poison Center is a member of the Tennessee State Department of Health Commissioner’s Council on Injury Prevention, a group of organizations throughout the state that collaborate to reduce injury deaths in Tennessee.

If you suspect a poisoning, call Tennessee Poison Center for treatment advice. The Poison Help toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222. All calls are fast, free and confidential.