Health bosses in Fife have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after mistakenly advising the public hand sanitiser kept in hot vehicles can pose a fire risk.
NHS Fife posted a message on social media urging patients and staff not to store the products in their vehicles following reports from the United States about car fires.
The guidance was issued nationally by NHS Property Services and other health boards such as NHS Tayside stopped short of issuing the same warning amid suggestions the evidence was not there to back it up.
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has publicly rubbished the fire risk posed by hand sanitisers, forcing the NHS to formally retract its previous advice.
Roy Wilsher, NFCC chairman, said: “We want to reassure people that this product will not combust if left in a car – even on the hottest day.
“For hand sanitiser to cause a fire it would need to come into contact with a spark.
“Hand sanitiser is very important in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, therefore it is is essential we debunk this myth.
“We advise people to ensure they store their hand sanitisers in vehicles safely, which includes keeping bottles closed and out of direct sunlight, such as in the glove box.
“This will ensure the contents do not deteriorate and means bottles cannot be magnified by the sun. Sanitiser should also be kept away from naked flame.”
After reports from media articles in the USA, NHS Property Services issued an internal message to frontline staff, highlighting what it believed to be a potential risk.
A spokesperson said: “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.”
The alcohol in the sanitiser would need to be open to their air in order to evaporate, it added, while the boiling points of the materials in hand sanitiser would need very high temperatures inside a vehicle to vaporise common alcohol products.
The NFCC went on to say the vapours would need to reach a “lower explosive limit” in order to form an ignitable mixture, which would then result in a “flash” when ignited rather than a sustained fire.