The Dark Side of Lighters

William B. Clemmer, a machinist from Stephenville, Texas was only 56 years old when he died. His last words, en route to a Dallas hospital, were: “My lighter exploded.”

Clemmer died on May 6, 2008 of severe burns over more than half of his body, 26 days after his MK lighter failed to extinguish and burst into flames in his pocket. Clemmer was at work on a Thursday in April, when he lit a cigarette, and placed the MK lighter in his pocket. Seconds later, the MK lighter exploded, engulfing his torso in flames. Although he was severely burned, he managed to call his brother, Ricky, who hurried over and drove him to the nearest fire station.

A quick-thinking employee, who later reported to work that day, snapped photos of the incident scene. He found the bay door to the machine shop wide open, signs of something burned and a lighter on the floor. Instinctively understanding that something was amiss, he captured the state of the workplace: charred remains of Clemmer’s clothing, the MK lighter, a single cigarette and a pack of Carnival cigarettes.

Today, the Clemmer family, through their lawyer Craig Sico, called on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to seek a recall of MK lighters, manufactured by the Chinese firm Zhuoye Lighter Company Ltd. and sold by the millions in the U.S. The Clemmers also asked the CPSC to bring the U.S. in line with other industrialized nations and implement a mandatory lighter safety standard, similar to the voluntary industry standard, which is already required in Canada and the European Union.

In 2006, the CPSC considered, but failed to take action on a request by the U.S. lighter industry trade group to make mandatory the voluntary standard American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F400, first adopted in 1975.

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