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Do NOT use hand sanitizer when lighting Fourth of July firecrackers, officials warn

Now is no time to get lax about hand hygiene, but if you plan on lighting off firecrackers this holiday weekend, stay away from the hand sanitizer, a fire department is warning.  

Hand sanitizer is effective at killing germs because it has a high alcohol content. 

But alcohol is also highly flammable, and could turn an evening of lighting off small firework and firecrackers dangerous this Fourth of July. 

‘Keep in mind, if you are using consumer fireworks this year, DO NOT USE HAND SANITIZER AT THE SAME TIME!’ warned the Fire Department of Greensboro, North Carolina in a recent Facebook post. 

‘Wash your hands only with soap and water. Hand Sanitizer is flammable!’ 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have urged the public over and over that diligent hand-washing or frequent use of hand sanitizer are crucial to slowing the spread of coronavirus. 

Using hand sanitizer frequently is generally encouraged to kill germs and slow the spread of coronavirus - but fire departments warn not to use it if you're setting off Fourth of July fireworks because it contains highly flammable alcohol

Using hand sanitizer frequently is generally encouraged to kill germs and slow the spread of coronavirus – but fire departments warn not to use it if you’re setting off Fourth of July fireworks because it contains highly flammable alcohol 

Hand-washing is always the best mode of hand hygiene because soap bursts open the oily exterior of the virus, killing it, and the scrubbing action helps to remove viral particles from the skin. 

Hand sanitizer is a lesser way to remove germs from you hands, but far better than nothing – unless you plan on handling fireworks. 

To be effective, hand sanitizers need to be at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. 

Both alcohols kill germs by damaging the same oily exterior of microbes and germs. 

Alcohol also catches fire very easily.  

New York City cancelled its Fourth of July fireworks due to coronavirus, instead setting them off unannounced  during the week leading up the holiday. As a result of cancelled shows, more Americans may be eager to set off their own fireworks

New York City cancelled its Fourth of July fireworks due to coronavirus, instead setting them off unannounced  during the week leading up the holiday. As a result of cancelled shows, more Americans may be eager to set off their own fireworks 

Hand sanitizers made with alcohol can evaporate at room temperature – about 68 degrees. 

The fine vapor that arises from the product becomes flammable at that temperature and can quickly go up in flames. 

It's an urban legend that hand sanitizer spontaneously combusts in hot cars, but it can easily catch fire if its near a flame - such as one from a cigarette lighter - and fule car fires

It’s an urban legend that hand sanitizer spontaneously combusts in hot cars, but it can easily catch fire if its near a flame – such as one from a cigarette lighter – and fule car fires 

With the Fourth of July coming up this weekend, Americans hoping to spend the day outdoors safely revelling by using hand sanitizer and setting off small fireworks while socially distancing may be unwittingly putting themselves in danger.

Even without that added risk of more diligent hand sanitizing, fireworks are a common cause of injuries in the US each summer. 

Last year, about 2,500 Americans wound up in emergency rooms across the US after sustaining injuries from fireworks, accounting for a quarter of the year’s fireworks injuries in a single day. 

Earlier this year, a Connecticut woman was arrested on murder charges after she  used hand sanitizer to set fire to a house, killing a 50-year-old man. 

Although it’s a wise tale that hand sanitizer spontaneously combusts and leads to car fires, it could act as accelerant if a it came into contact with a flame – from, say, a cigarette lighter or electrical fire – in a car. 

So this year, if you’re heading out to set off firecrackers, take precautions to protect yourself from possible coronavirus exposures, but leave the hand sanitizer home,and stick to hand washing.  

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