Hand Sanitizer And Static Electricity Pose Fire Hazard
February 20, 2013

Young Girl Catches Fire In Oregon Hospital, Hand Sanitizer Could Be To Blame

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Shouts were heard from an 11-year-old girl this past Saturday morning at Doernbecher Children´s Hospital when flames mysteriously caught onto her t-shirt. Ireland Lane had been hospitalized for a head injury when the situation had occurred. She is now recovering from third-degree burns, according to ABC News.

Even though hospital staff were able to extinguish the flames, the cause of the fire is still unclear.

“I´ve been in medicine going back 30 years now and never heard anything like this. And hopefully I never will again,” Dr. Stacy Nicholson, who serves as the physician-in-chief at Doernbecher Children´s Hospital in Oregon, commented in a KATU article.

According to ABC News, officials are looking into whether alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with static electricity could have initiated the fire; prior to the incident, Lane had been cleaning a table with some hand sanitizer.

“Our safety experts are working closely with the Oregon State Fire Marshal´s office on its investigation,” noted Nicholson in a statement to ABC News. “We anxiously await their findings and will certainly make adjustments if the cause was preventable.”

The Oregonian also reported that Lane is currently being treated for third-degree burns on her arms, chest, neck, and earlobes at the Legacy Oregon Burn Center.

“She´s quite a tough one,” commented Stephen Lane, the girl´s father, in an article by The Oregonian. “She´s been through more than any child I´ve ever heard of, and to still walk around with a smile on her face and enjoy the things of the day that are going on, and be a kid is to me pretty amazing.”

Lane was in the room when the fire erupted and followed his daughter out of the room, where he worked to smother the flames with hospital staff.

“I can handle all of it – I´m a dad and I´m supposed to,” continued Lane in The Oregonian article. “But I hate seeing her unhappy stuck in a hospital again.”

Incidents like these have happened in the past with the increased popularity of hand sanitizers. Fire preventive groups such as the Kansas State Fire Marshal have publicized the hazardous side of hand sanitizers. In particular, the organization noted that the content of the alcohol-based hand rubs is flammable and that it can cause burns in relation to static and arcing electricity. They offered a number of recommendations, including not installing hand sanitizer dispensers directly adjacent to, above, or below an electrical source. They also recommended that hand sanitizers be installed with only manual dispensers.

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) also provides a set of recommendations in terms of minimizing fire risks. For example, they advise healthcare providers to include clearly written instructions on how to use the hand rub dispenser. These instructions also include warnings to not use an excessive amount of hand sanitizer and the importance of not smoking immediately after using hand sanitizer. Likewise, the group recommended that any spills of hand sanitizer be dealt with immediately by diluting the source with water, ventilating the area, and removing all possible sources of ignition.