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‘We know this sounds simple’: US government tells citizens not to fill bags with gasoline

The US government has warned citizens against something few would even attempt in the first place: stockpiling gasoline in plastic bags. The warning comes after a ransomware attack crippled the East Coast’s gas supply.

More than 1,000 gas stations in a dozen states have run out of fuel, after a ransomware attack last week shut down one of the US’ vital arteries. Operated by the Colonial Pipeline Company, it normally transits 100 million gallons a day from Texas all the way to New York – nearly half of the Eastern Seaboard’s gasoline and diesel supply.

As motorists queued for fuel, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a bizarre warning on Wednesday: “Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline.”

“Use only containers approved for fuel,” the commission continued, before warning Americans not to “pour gasoline over or near an open flame,” due to the risk of “a sudden and possibly violent flash fire.”

“We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate, they stop thinking clearly,” the commission concluded. “If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it’s dangerous.”

Aside from the risk of spillage, gasoline eats through most plastics. One would think that most motorists would know this, but video footage and images shared on social media in recent days suggest otherwise.

However necessary it may have been, the warning was ridiculed on Twitter. 

The CPSC has issued similarly obvious messages before. When former president Donald Trump mused last year about using ultraviolet light on Covid-19 patients as a “disinfectant,” the media interpreted his comments as an endorsement of drinking bleach. The CPSC responded the following day by warning that “cleaning products are poisonous, America,” and should be kept away from kids.

The commission’s safety messages are not without a sense of humor, however. A recent warning not to “play games with power tools” featured a man locked into a game of chess against a table saw, above a serious note about the danger of free-hand cutting and “blade-contact injuries.”

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