Fact Check: Can a hand sanitizer cause a fire in your car?
Fact Check: Can a hand sanitizer cause a fire in your car?

There has been some consternation over a recent fire in Usha Kiran building on Carmichael Road in Mumbai on Saturday in a car park which damaged five cars.

While there were claims that a hand sanitizer was responsible, Mumbai Fire Brigade’s Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale after probing t he matter revealed the cause of fire wasn't a hand sanitizer. He said "As a first arriving officer at the scene of incident observed that entire vehicle was engulfed in fire, and high temperature and burning intensity was observed in the engine area, immediately within few minutes fire personnel's extinguished entire fire by implementing two high-pressure firefighting jets at a time during operation."

Rahangdale said that further inquiry was made with owner of the vehicle and it was learnt that he came from outside and was parking his car in the car park area at the ground floor. Rahangdale said that the car owner also informed that he has neither carried out any sanitization nor kept any sanitizer bottle in the car."As soon as he parked his vehicle and before switching off the engine he observed smoke emitting from the engine. Immediately he switched off the engine and left the vehicle," the chief fire officer informed.

Rahangdale said that after checking the CCTV footage of the parking area, it was pretty clear that the statement made by the owner of the car was true. Thus, by the statement of car owner and observations of first arrival officer the supposed cause of fire is "Defective Electric Circuit."

FPJ Verdict: Very Unlikely

While alcohol-based hand sanitizers cannot ignite on its own, it is flammable. Ergo, leaving alcohol-based hand sanitizers in your car does not pose a significant fire risk. However, research suggests that high temperature can lower its ability to disinfect.

Although it is technically possible for a fire to start in this manner, again, it is very unlikely. The sun, the bottle, and a flammable source would all have to be in perfect alignment on a rather hot day to ignite a fire.

Moreover, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged the low threat of alcohol-based hand sanitizer fires and released guidelines for safe storage in health care facilities. “Although the incidence of fires related to ABHS is very low, it is vital that ABHS is stored safely and that bulk dispensers are installed and maintained correctly,” it said on its website.

Windor Locks Fire Department (WLFD) has taken note of the past history of fire from clear bottles being stored in vehicles. WLFD said on its website that these bottles store bottled water or now hand sanitizer. "While infrequent, there have been cases in the recent past were reflecting light placed through a clear bottle was able to focus onto a combustible surface and cause a fire. This has primarily been through water bottles but since hand sanitizer is often stored in the same vessel we wanted to pass it along for your safety."

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