There are some websites out there exclaiming that stories of exploding gas cans are just perpetuating a myth. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Just last week, two young boys were injured with first and second degree burns as they innocently played in a garage. Not many details are known from the accident, but it appears that the boys were playing with a lighter and authorities found a melted gas can.
Now, some of you might be saying that the boys should have known better than to be playing with a lighter near a gas can. While I would agree, the danger is not as clear as that. Most consumer gas cans, the plastic ones that you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart, do not have a safety mechanism that keeps flames from igniting the gas contained inside when oxygen is introduced into the can. Without this safety mechanism, which can be a 5 cent piece of mesh, flames do not have to be right next to the can in order to ignite the gas. Open flames from many feet away can ignite the gas as it is being poured from the can. The vapor can ignite and carry the flame back into the can full of gas creating an explosion.
The manufacturer of most of plastic gas cans sold to consumers has considered adding this piece of mesh to the cans, but rejected the idea on the basis that consumers would not pay the additional cost of the can. As for me, I will gladly pay the extra 5 cents, the extra dollar or the extra 5 dollars to have this safety feature.