Reporting Mike Puccinelli
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Wednesday called on the federal government to ban popular home and garden products known as garden firepots.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Madigan’s office contends the fuel gel used in the firepots burns almost like an infamous weapon of war when it comes into contact with human skin.
“A product that amounts to legalized napalm. It’s crazy,” Madigan said of a product that has lead to two deaths and nearly 60 injuries in the United States this year.
The product is fuel gel that is used to light backyard firepots. The problem is that sometimes people think the firepots have burned out when they have not.
“They no longer believe it is lit and they end up pouring more of the gel into the firepot. And when they do that there are horrible consequences, because basically a fireball erupts,” Madigan said.
Jeff Sipple found himself on the receiving end of one of those fireballs.
“I remember it vividly. It was pure terror,” Sipple said. He suffered major burns to his face and left arm. While his face has healed well, his left arm is still seriously scarred.
“It’s a ten to fifteen second incident and you think ‘My life just changed,’” Sipple said.
While Sipple’s ordeal lasted only seconds, Ilana Mendoza was on fire for several minutes.
“To see your child on fire, it’s the worst nightmare anyone could have,” said Ilana’s mother, Dana Mendoza, as she choked back tears.
Ilana, 3, was burned nearly a year ago and might be permanently disfigured.
It was September 2010 when Ilana crawled under a table to get a toy. When she was coming out, she bumped the table and tipped over a firepot, spilling the flaming gel all over her face and body.
Dana Mendoza was also burned when she tried to save her daughter by covering the flames with her own body.
Initially, Dana Mendoza feared her daughter might not survive. Now, she’s hoping doctors will be able to repair her face. At least two more skin repair procedures are planned.
The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission said it is committed to taking action to prevent other consumers from suffering serious burn injuries.
“CPSC was the first agency to issue a nationwide warning to consumers this summer about the serious danger posed by fuel gels and firepots. We have taken a leading role in investigating the product line and the manufacturers,” CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said in an email on Wednesday.
The CPSC has already contacted one company, which voluntarily recalled its fuel gel product.
It’s still not clear when or if the others will be taken off the market.