Are firelighters dangerous to your health?

Are firelighters dangerous to your health?
Are firelighters dangerous to your health?

In mid-June, the barbecue season has already begun, but many enthusiasts sometimes struggle to get the flames going. Hence the use of firelighters, the dangerousness of which raises questions.

As summer approaches, barbecue enthusiasts are getting ready, while some die-hards have already started the dance. If this convivial method of cooking is almost a perfectly mastered art of living for some, others often struggle to get it going. And use products to start the first flames, including firelighters. Whether solid, liquid or gel, these products act as allies for grilling without too much difficulty. But the question of the toxicity of these products arises. Are these products all the same? Response elements.

A hydrocarbon-based composition

They are everywhere, available for sale very easily, inexpensive, generally between 3 and 10 euros, whether in gel, solid or liquid. Firelighters are not new, and their health risk has been reported for several years.

“The toxicity of these products is not recent, it is a well-known phenomenon. It is linked to the presence of hydrocarbons, substances which are used more to burn than to catch fire,” Alexis explains to RMC Conso Descatha, professor of toxicology at Angers University Hospital.

In 2009, a report from the Consumer Safety Commission, now defunct, highlighted that firelighters available on the French market are often composed of 70 to 85% kerosene, a hydrocarbon resulting from the distillation of petroleum, mainly used as fuel in aviation.

The DGCCRF (Fraud Repression), attached to the same ministry as this former commission, indicated to RMC Conso that the data published in this report remained current.

Children are most at risk

Is consuming food cooked using hydrocarbon combustion harmful to your health? For the toxicology professor, the question is broader. According to the latter, the degradation of certain animal products by heat and the consumption of certain fats are equally carcinogenic. The danger of firelighters lies rather in their accidental ingestion by a certain public: children. Especially in their liquid form.

“The risks observed in French poison control centers lie in the accidental inhalation of these products which cause lung infections and require hospitalization. The most frequent cases are ingestions, particularly by children,” summarizes the latter.

In this case, ingestion may be indicated by digestive disorders (burping, abdominal pain or even irritating diarrhea).

For the professor, the use of solid firelighters remains preferable rather than using liquid or gel versions, thanks to their less accident-prone nature. But zero risk does not exist. Still according to the Consumer Safety Commission report, five accidents linked to the use of solid firelighters were reported over a two-year period.

Between 2004 and 2006, the National Health Agency noted three cases of accidental sucking or ingestion of firelighters by children aged 15, 16 and 24 months and two cases of hand burns with hot paraffin. , another hydrocarbon used in the composition of solid firelighters.

Thus, six families of risks linked to the use of these products emerge: asphyxia by obstruction of the digestive tract, damage to the digestive tract, digestive poisoning, respiratory poisoning, burns or fire, and finally skin or ophthalmic irritation.

Do without or otherwise

Lighting your barbecue with help is not obligatory, but for those who absolutely want a helping hand, it is possible to call on Mother Nature. For example, dry pine cones are excellent fuels. In urban areas, barbecue enthusiasts can use wooden crates, which are often free in supermarkets.

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