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Danger! Aerosols on Board!

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07/01/2008 - Hair spray, lubricants, solvents, window cleaners, bug sprays and other aerosols are often kept in vehicles year round. Some are kept in metal storage boxes in the back, in glove boxes, or on the ledge of the back window, placing these containers close to heat sources.

These pressurized containers are often temperature sensitive and classified as either flammable or combustible. Because these products are so readily available in stores and because they are so commonly used, we forget the hazards that are associated with them.

Not too sure what the difference is between a flammable and combustible product? Well, to keep it simple, the classification is based on the product's flashpoint the temperature at which enough vapors are produced to ignite if there is an ignition source or enough heat present. A flammable material has a flashpoint of less than 100 degrees F, 'extremely flammable' has a flashpoint of less than 73 degrees F, and a combustible material has a flashpoint above 100 degrees F. The exact temperature is found on the material safety data sheet something you may know about from work but will never see as a consumer.

So the bottom line is this do not store any aerosol product in temperatures that can exceed 120 degrees F!

Most aerosol labels warn you to not store them in temperatures greater than 120 degrees F. During summer months in most places around the United States, outside air temperatures will exceed 90 degrees F while the temperatures inside a cabinet or a toolbox or inside the vehicle can exceed 130 degrees F. Without additional ventilation or temperature relief, these containers can become explosive.

No matter how big or fast your vehicle, neither it nor you can recover from the consequences of exploding aerosols on-board.

Serious damage to windows, the interior, or the body of the vehicle can occur after an aerosol can explodes. If anyone is in the vehicle at the time of the incident, personal injury from being struck by flying glass or exploding container can be serious. You also have the risk of fire, toxic fumes, and an additional chain reaction risk with your fuel and other items. And of course, if you're driving or riding at the time of the incident, you can experience panic and death!

Think what could happen if your child sits next to or on top of this can. Over-pressurized aerosol cans release the excess pressure through the nozzle and become uncontrolled flying missiles. Cans have actually penetrated and gone through seats!

Don't store aerosol cans in places with no ventilation or where the temperatures cannot be controlled. Keep close only the items you will use for that particular trip or activity. You or your child can be seriously injured or killed if these materials blow. Look inside, around, and in the back of your vehicle and remove these hazards by storing aerosols in proper locations. It could save your life!

Randy DeVaul is an internationally published writer and author with more than 25 years in safety and emergency response services. He has authored three performance-based safety books and is now writing Being Safe At Home: Surviving the Hazards of Living in Your Home. Comments welcome at safetypro@roadrunner.com.

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