Letter: No, hand sanitizer will not spontaneously ignite in a hot car

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To the Editor:

Despite some information currently being released on social media and in the news about hand sanitizer spontaneously igniting, the short answer is don't worry. From a fire safety standpoint, it is not unsafe to leave hand sanitizer inside a hot vehicle.

Yes, while it is true that in sweltering heat of summer a vehicle that's been sitting in the sun can reach interior car temperatures over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This is certainly dangerous a person or a pet or a chocolate bar but it won't cause alcohol based hand sanitizer to spontaneously ignite.

Here's why: In simple terms, hand sanitizer requires an intense heat source, upwards of 700 degrees Fahrenheit, to ignite. You need a candle, match or blow torch, like what you see in the video making the rounds to get that kind of heat.

While it's true that most hand sanitizers have a flashpoint around room temperature, that doesn't mean the liquid will all of a sudden catch fire if it reaches that temperature. Flashpoint is a technical term used to characterize the propensity of a liquid to burn. It defines the temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapor to become ignitable in the air. At that temperature, however, you still need an ignition source like a flame from a candle or a lighter for ignition to occur.

So bottom line, you have plenty of other things to worry about, your hand sanitizer spontaneously igniting in your car is not one of them.

Howard A Cohen, rabbi


The writer is deputy chief of the Bennington Fire Department.



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