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South Japan city fire dept. highlights flammability of alcohol hand wash with demonstration

Flames from a cooking stove are seen spreading after rubbing alcohol is sprayed near them, in a demonstration carried out by the Kitakyushu fire department, at a facility in the city's Kokurakita Ward, Fukuoka Prefecture, on April 24, 2020. (Mainichi/Akiho Narimatsu)

KITAKYUSHU -- To warn people of the dangers from highly flammable rubbing alcohols often present in chemicals seeing wider usage during the novel coronavirus pandemic, this southwestern Japan city's fire department held a demonstration to reporters showing how hand wash can exacerbate fires from cooking stoves and lighters.

The experiment was carried out on April 24 at a training facility in Kitakyushu's Kokurakita Ward by fire department employees wearing flame-retardant clothes. To show the dangers, the team sprayed rubbing alcohol in the vicinity of a kettle being heated on a portable gas stove. In a flash, the exposed flames leapt upward. They also showed how a lighter used to light a cigarette can cause flames to jump onto the hands of someone who has just washed theirs with rubbing alcohol.

Many products made with rubbing alcohol are thought to be more flammable than kerosene or diesel oil. Hiromi Nimura, the head of the fire department's hazardous material section, said, "Don't use disinfectants near flames, and please keep any containers holding the solution away from flames."

He continued, "When disinfecting your hands, don't put them near a naked flame until the feeling of coolness from the solution has disappeared. Also, if you wipe down objects thoroughly, wait until they're well-dried before putting flames near them."

(Japanese original by Akiho Narimatsu, Kyushu News Department)

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