Hand-controlled pump explosions causing alarm

William C. Pao,The China Post

The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday urged people to refrain from putting highly basic liquids in hand-controlled pumps made of plastics with low inertia, after receiving complaints that they tend to burst apart. One of the victims, a man who wished to be identified as Lin, showed up at the news conference recounting his experience. A wholesaler for steel eating utensils, Lin had broken three plastic hand-controlled pumps after putting diluted sodium hydroxide, a highly basic compound generally used for cleaning, in them. During the third incident Lin almost lost his vision when the sodium hydroxide spewed out from the broken container. According to Yiu Ming-kuo, chairman of the foundation, hand-controlled pumps made of low-inertia plastics are designed to hold water and function as a water can for gardening purposes. When users put corrosive liquids, such as strong acids and bases, into the container, they cause cracks and other damages. The pumping actions of the container may eventually break, Yiu said. If consumers want to put strong chemicals in a container, they should get one made of high-inertia plastics such as Teflon, he said.

Yiu added non-professionals should refrain from making diluted sodium hydroxide in the first place. He suggested that consumers buy sodium hydroxide bar soaps for cleaning purposes. Yang Shou-jung, professor of Soochow University and president of Consumer Reports of Taiwan, said people have a tendency to exercise caution when using acids. However, he said it is also important to educate consumers that bases are also dangerous.

“Bases can also cause significant damage to human body,” Yang said. The pump accidents were made public after similar cases involving breaking washbasins were reported a week ago. They again raised public awareness of safety issues surrounding common household items. According to the Consumers’ Foundation, none of the hand-controlled pumps included a warning label specifying what substances are suitable for the containers. Su Chin-hsia, publisher of Consumer Reports of Taiwan, said manufacturers and retailers are both responsible for injuries caused by improper usage if they did not put a warning on the pump, which is required by Taiwan’s consumer protection law. If manufacturers and retailers did put a label and could prove that they did, they would then not be responsible for the accidents, she said. Su stated the foundation will negotiate the amount of compensation Lin will receive from the manufacturer. If both sides can not reach a consensus, the foundation would consider filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer on Lin’s behalf.