Single-use plastic water bottles have become a heavy source of debate in recent years, posing a threat to conservation efforts, taking up space in landfills, and polluting oceans. And it gets worse.
There’s already plenty of information available warning against drinking from plastic water bottles left in hot cars. Some experts have warned of the dangers of plastic molecules from the bottle leaching into the water, catalyzed by the heat, before being consumed. These plastic bottles of water pose further dangers still:
As a battery technician in Idaho discovered a few summers ago, it’s not just consuming plastic that you should be worried about when you leave a bottle in a searing hot car.
Dioni Amuchastegui filmed a lesson in summer safety that his employer, Idaho Power, then shared on social media.
Amuchastegui had left a water bottle sitting on the center console seat of his work vehicle while enjoying his lunch, assuming that there was nothing wrong—anyone else in his place would likely have assumed the same thing.
Imagine his shock, then, when he noticed a small curl of smoke starting to waft up from the seat cushion. The water bottle had acted as a magnifying glass for the sunlight, concentrating a pinhole of light on the leather, eventually burning a couple of holes right through.
“I was a little bit surprised. I actually had to do a double take and check it again. And sure enough, it was super hot. I even stuck my hand under the light. It was hard to believe at first […] Not something you’d really expect,” the battery tech explained.
Did you know that on a hot day, a see through water bottle in your car has the potential to start a fire? Neither did Stations Battery Technician Dioni Amuchastegui.
Posted by Idaho Power on Thursday, July 13, 2017
Luckily, Amuchastegui had been sitting next to the bottle when it happened and was able to quickly put it out. But the Oklahoma Midwest City Fire Department conducted a test to see if it was just a fluke accident—and determined that any car is at risk of something similar happening if the driver isn’t careful.
“The sunlight will come through, when it’s filled with liquid, and act as a magnifying glass as you would with regular optics,” explained MCFD’s David Richardson in an interview with KFOR. “It uses the liquid and the clear material to develop a focused beam and sure enough, it can actually cause a fire, a combustion.”
Got myself a new tacoma! #muleymobile #huntingrig
If you’re just heading inside a store for a few minutes and don’t want to carry your water around with you, the safest place for it is under the seat or in a closed center console—away from the potential sunlight. And you can avoid other random objects magnifying the light—not to mention protect your steering wheel and dashboard—by using a windshield sun shade every time you leave the vehicle. They can keep the overall temperature in your car up to 15 degrees cooler, according to a study by the Florida Energy Center, and can keep your dashboard up to 40 degrees cooler in the process.
Just in case, though, you’re always better served to take your water bottle out of the car with you—and ultimately, you’ll be best served to simply buy a reusable water bottle to begin with. Not only will you eliminate the amount of waste you produce, but you’ll lower your risk of both these in-car fires and the plastic deterioration that a single-use bottle can experience.
Can a bottle of water start a fire?After numerous comments and questions about the actual possibility of a water bottle being able to start a fire, we put it to the test today! It did in fact work! (See the attached video).PLEASE keep in mind that many factors must be in place for this to occur. The likelihood of this happening in a vehicle and sustaining a fire is probably very small. We do not endorse or condone this activity. This was conducted in a controlled environment for demonstration purposes only!
Posted by Midwest City Fire Department on Thursday, August 17, 2017