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Richmond Fire-Rescue offers tips to safely store and use hand sanitizer

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 4:30 PDT, Wed July 22, 2020

Last Updated: 4:45 PDT, Wed July 22, 2020

While hand sanitizer can help safely to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Richmond Fire-Rescue is reminding people to be careful with how it is stored and used.

As temperatures rise in the region, so does the internal temperature of cars where people are keeping bottles or containers of sanitizers as part of their COVID-19 safety procedures.

Because hand sanitizers are alcohol-based—anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent depending on the manufacturer—they are prone to leakage due to over-pressurization from high temperatures. This can result in spillage and fumes inside vehicles that, while not dangerous, can create odours and nausea for some people when in a confined space.

Richmond Fire-Rescue is advising people to keep their hand sanitizer in an upright position and properly sealed to avoid spillage. As an added precaution, containers left in a vehicle should be kept out of direct sunlight and people should read and follow directions and warnings on product labels.

Because of their alcohol content, hand sanitizer can be flammable so Richmond Fire-Rescue warns users to take care when smoking or using around open flames due to vapour. However, it reassures people that there is no fire risk of spontaneous ignition from storing sanitizer in vehicles (without an open flame present.)

Hand sanitizer is not prone to self-heating and would require temperatures in excess of 370 degrees Celsius (700 degrees Fahrenheit) to spontaneously ignite. Investigations have shown that the rate of vapour leakage from a personal container of sanitizer left in a hot vehicle would not result in sufficient vapour density to fall within flammable limits in air.

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