The first Phoenix Forum of 2007 brought together
stakeholders from across the safety and burns
environment, at the Astronomical Observatory in
Cape Town on June 23, to discuss the risks of burn
injuries and prevention strategies.
Speakers at the well-attended event stressed that public
awareness on burns issues must be raised.
Dr Ashley van Niekerk, a specialist in paediatric burn
injuries from the Medical Research Council, told the
forum that burn injuries occur mostly in low income settings and typically in and around the home. While scald
injuries from hot liquids account for 70%
of burn injuries, the 20% of injuries from
open flames are more severe and produce higher rates of fatalities.
Noting that many paedriatic burn injuries
occur in single-parent households, he
called for greater access to child-care
He stressed the need for burn prevention to be included
in school curricula. He also called for awareness campaigns addressed especially at communities at risk of
burns, and on members of such communities to "take action". Likewise, policy
makers and decision makers need to be educated and lobbied on burns
Teri Kruger of the Paraffin Safety Association showed the meeting a short
film of the interior of a shack catching fire after a parrafin stove
overturned. Within just over a minute, the shack was completetly engulfed in
flames. If such a fire breaks out, "get out quickly," she advised.
Another common danger is the accidental consumption of paraffin, Kruger
said, adding that about 80000 children ingest paraffin every year. Although
paraffin is dangerous, she said, it cannot be eradicated for several reasons, including affordability and habits, nor will
electricity or alternative fuels "be accessed by all to eliminate
While paraffin is the most affordable, accessible and
widely used energy, there lacks consumer focus in the
system of fuel delivery and package design," Kruger
said. She said the hazards of paraffin should be
reduced through knowledge and education, and through
safer appliances and packaging.
Dr Attila Szabo, project manager of the Khayelitsha
Gel Fuel Programme, said that more than 2500 people
die in 40000 fires a year in South Africa, costing the
country an annual R100 billion.
Dr Szabo told the meeting that he would
like to see paraffin replaced by ethanol
gel fuel as a safer alternative. Gel fuels
do not spill and run and thereby cause
fires, cannot be ingested, and emit no
toxic fumes, he said.
He also pointed out that the Kyoto
Protocol encouraged the use of alternative fuels -
including ethanol gel fuel whose source is renewable -
for a cleaner environment.
His organisation wants to replace paraffin appliances in
every household with those that use gel fuel. He did,
however, acknowledge that the higher price of gel fuels
presents an obstacle in this aim.
Van Niekerk called for the "enforcement of specifications for portable paraffin stoves" and access to electrification in a bid to reduce open flame burn injuries.
Dr Peter Martinez, president of the Phoenix Burns
Project, told a national newspaper that all stakeholders
in burn issues have a role to play in burn prevention,
and hoped that discussion forums such as the Phoenix
Forum will help towards developing a joint strategy in
finding solutions to the various challenges in the field.