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New Warning About 'Hidden Risk' on Hand Sanitizers

Fire department posts photo of burned car door, claiming hand sanitizer can ignite if car gets too hot
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2020 8:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Hand sanitizer is supposed to be helping us to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, but CBS Dallas-Fort Worth details a "hidden risk" that many people may not have considered. In a Facebook post that's since been taken down, the Western Lakes Fire District of Oconomowoc, Wis., put up a photo (you can see it on the CBS site) that showed a scorched car door, with a warning on what reportedly caused the fire that burned it: hand sanitizer that went ablaze. "By its nature, most hand sanitizer is alcohol-based and therefore flammable," the fire department wrote, per WFLA. "Keeping it in your car during hot weather, exposing it to sun causing magnification of light through the bottle, and particularly being next to open flame while smoking in vehicles or grilling while enjoying this weekend can lead to disaster."

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Retired Dallas firefighter Sherrie Wilson tells CBS that pump-style bottles can be especially risky, as vapors are able to escape from the container and into the air. "When it's venting and if it's venting in a small space like a car, and vapor is released, it can explode," she says. The fire department noted that in this particular case, the fire was caused by hand sanitizer that ignited after being left in a car whose interior reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit. WMTV notes there's been a bit of controversy over where the photo originated from, with reports it's been seen in stories circulating around the globe, but in a Thursday Facebook post, the department defended its overall message. "We didn't want anyone injured exercising good hygiene practices and then unintentionally coming in contact with open flame," it noted. "We simply want our customers to be happy healthy and well." (Read more hand sanitizer stories.)

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