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Claims that hand sanitiser can spontaneously combust in hot cars are false

PUBLISHED: 12:21 27 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:29 27 June 2020

Person using hand sanitiser gel dispenser. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Panuwat Dangsungnoen.

Person using hand sanitiser gel dispenser. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Panuwat Dangsungnoen.

Getty Images/iStockphoto/Panuwat Dangsungnoen

Claims that alcohol-based hand sanitiser can ignite and catch on fire if left inside hot cars have been quashed.

It comes after a number of Facebook pages linked to the NHS and doctors’ surgeries shared the claim online that sanitiser left in hot vehicles can catch on fire spontaneously.

A spokesperson from NHS Property Services (NHSPS), which many of the posts are attributed to, said it was advised by representatives from trade union Unison and issued the advice internally out of concern for its staff.

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However, it has since been clarified that the flammable ingredients in hand sanitiser would need to be at much higher temperatures - more than 350C - to combust without a spark.

A statement from NHSPS read: “At the end of May, NHS Property Services (NHSPS) received notifications from safety officers at Unison, who raised media reports from US Fire Authorities that hand sanitiser was catching fire in vehicles.

“As part of our Covid-19 strategic pandemic plans, NHSPS has acquired significant levels of hand sanitiser to keep our frontline engineers safe.

“At NHSPS we take our duty of care toward our frontline staff very seriously. As such, in response to the notification we received, our health and safety team issued an internal message to highlight the potential risks associated with hand sanitiser in vehicles. With the hot summer approaching, there was concern for our facilities management staff who would be transporting this material.

“This decision to raise awareness across colleagues was made in good faith. It is now our understanding that the risks associated with hand sanitiser in vehicles only become apparent when in contact with a spark. We will be issuing a formal alert to our frontline teams to clarify this situation.”


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