The NHS has issued a statement reassuring the public that it is safe to leave hand sanitisers in cars during a heatwave.
The property management division of the health service (NHSPS) had previously issued an internal leaflet to its frontline staff as temperatures peaked in late May, stating that if left too long in a hot car containers of alcohol-based hand gel could ignite and cause the a car interior to melt.
The NHSPS leaflet, posted with shocking pictures of a melting car interior, read: “We have received a number of reports of hand sanitiser being the cause of fires when left in vehicles in the hot weather the UK is currently experiencing.
‘”The alcohol hand sanitiser is becoming heated resulting in flammable vapours being released.
“These vapours are reaching their ‘flashpoint’ and then ignite in normal air conditions, setting fire to flammable components within the car.
“Remove all alcohol-based hand sanitiser products from vehicles when they are not occupied, do not leave hand sanitiser in unattended vehicles.”
It highlighted that an external summer’s day temperature of 25C sees the interior of a car left in the sun reach around 55 degrees.
Hand hygiene is one of the key components of battling the spread of Covid-19, and many Britons currently have a bottle of sanitiser sitting in their car, their handbag, or any spare pocket.
So the information was widely shared on social media this week by local authorities and concerned members of the public as temperatures soared and the mercury hit 3C.
But on Wednesday afternoon an NHSPS spokesperson told the Standard the body wants to make it clear that the public should definitely keep hand sanitiser in their cars whatever the weather, as it is crucial in keeping up hand hygiene as the lockdown eases further.
The spokesperson said the initial leaflet was created “in good faith” but that NHSPS was now aware that overheated hand sanitiser left in a hot car poses no clear risk to the public.
The alcohol-based get can only be a fire risk if ignited by a spark – which is unlikely to be the case in almost all parked cars.
This point had already been highlighted earlier on Wednesday by fact-checking website, Full Fact.
Some Twitter users had also expressed their concern at the suggestion, with one writing: “This is fake news.”
The spokesperson said: “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 sanitisers were catching fire in vehicles. As part of our COVID-19 strategic pandemic plans, NHSPS has acquired significant levels of hand sanitisers 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 sanitisers 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 sanitisers 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.”