Moschella told NBC News that most of the alleged incidents of internal can explosion have involved consumer misuse – such as pouring gasoline on a fire. He argued that all the incidents more likely have resulted from vapor explosions occurring outside the cans, and asserted that no one has proven in court that an explosion incident resulted from an ignition inside a can.
"This is really only occurring in a laboratory environment," Moschella said. "We haven't seen a case where that has been demonstrated."
"It's not clear at all that what is occurring in the real world, in real life, is that gas cans are exploding," said Moschella.
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Gas Cans Alleged 'Defect': No Flame Arresters
The lawsuits allege that all the incidents were flashback explosions of the kind WPI's results demonstrated, from ignitions inside the cans.
They allege that the gas cans are "susceptible" to such internal combustion explosions and are therefore "dangerous," "unsafe" and "defective" for a specific reason: because their design does not include a flame arrester, a part the lawsuits allege could prevent flashback explosions.
Flame arresters—pieces of mesh or disks with holes that are intended to disrupt flame—are in use in metal "safety" gas cans, in fuel tanks, and in storage containers of other flammable liquids such as charcoal lighter fluid and rum.
"Any can that doesn't have a flame arrester is unsafe, period," said Breneman, the plaintiffs' attorney.
The gas can industry is "intently" studying whether to add arresters, said Moscella. "We can only add that to the can if it won't make the can less safe."
Dylan Kornegay's mother Karen has started a website in her son's given first name, Matthew, to educate others about the hazard of plastic gas can explosions. The website is called "Matthew Didn't Know."
"Dylan didn't know. I didn't know," Kornegay said. "He didn't have to die. His injuries could've been so much less."
After inquiries from NBC News and a review of both injury reports and flame-arrester engineering the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement calling on the consumer gas can industry to incorporate flame-arrester technology into its gasoline containers.
"CPSC believes that this technology also should be included in gasoline containers," the statement said. "CPSC is calling on the industry to regain the momentum that was lost in years past by designing their products to include this safety technology.
In addition, CPSC is asking voluntary standards organizations to incorporate a flame arrestor system into applicable safety standards for gas cans."
—By Lisa Myers and Richard Gardella for NBC News