Social media has been abuzz with claims that hand sanitizers could ignite a fire when left in a car for hours on a hot summer day. Images and videos of cars going up in flames are doing the rounds on Twitter with netizens attributing the cause of it to a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Recently, IPS Dipanshu Kabra, IG Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh Police, took to the micro-blogging website to share a clip of an incident of a car fire that transpired in the national capital.
"Beware of keeping liquid hand sanitizers in your car. The volatile liquid may trigger fire with rising temperatures during summer. Recent incident reported at Rohini Flyover, Delhi. One such incident was reported in Raipur, a few days back," he wrote.
#Beware of keeping liquid #HandSanitizers in your car. The volatile liquid may trigger fire with rising temp. during summer. Recent incident reported at Rohini Flyover, #Delhi. One such incident was reported in #Raipur, few days back.@Kranti_Sambhav @AmitHPanchal @sidpatankar pic.twitter.com/hboBYW3t3e— Dipanshu Kabra (@ipskabra) May 28, 2020
The claims soon became of a cause of worry for people as many are carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer in their car while heading off to work amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Fact-checking the claim
As the images and videos went viral on social media, fire experts came forward to throw some light on the matter. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) explained that a hand sanitizer would have to be exposed to an extreme level of heat, probably over 350 degrees Celsius, in order to spontaneously combust.
"Spontaneous ignition involves a substance self-heating to a point where it ignites, without the need for any outside ignition source like a flame. Hand sanitizer is not subject to self-heating and would require temperatures to reach over 700 degrees Fahrenheit to spontaneously ignite," said Guy Colonna, Director of Technical Services at NFPA.
Later, Dipanshur Kabra also issued a clarification pertaining to his earlier tweet regarding a hand sanitizer causing a fire in a car in Delhi. "Eyewitness reported that fire broke out due to sanitizer. News says that the car was loaded with plastic and is suspected to catch fire due to CNG leakage," the IPS officer wrote.
While he stated that it is extremely unlikely for a hand sanitizer to cause a fire at the current temperature, but also warned that it is not completely safe to keep one in a car.
"Many blogs & studies suggest that sanitizers can't explode at such temperature. But since it's a volatile liquid, it can easily get vaporized and can possibly cause a fire in some situations. Hence it is advised to avoid keeping them in the car under such intense heat," he said.