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Personal air sanitisers are an explosion hazard on planes, New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority warns

03 September 2020

New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has warned that personal hand sanitisers being promoted as blocking bacterial or viral airborne infections are an explosion risk on aircraft. The sanitisers involve substances which can cause a chemical reaction to occur that poses an explosion risk, Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reports.

Image: Phillip Capper / Wikimedia / Flickr
Image: Phillip Capper / Wikimedia / Flickr

The personal air sanitisers which the CAA is warning against can be worn near the face or clipped onto shirts. RNZ reports that the sanitisers pose a risk because they are being imported on cargo planes and are also being carried on board passenger aircraft after being purchased online. The chemical reaction involved in the air sanitisers is also thought to causes respiratory issues.

The CAA has said that at least one product is made of Sodium Chlorite and a natural organic substance, Zeolite. The two chemicals can cause a chemical reaction which produces the highly flammable and reactive gas Chlorine Dioxide at low concentration. Chlorine Dioxide does not require air to burn and can be fatal at very high exposure levels.
RNZ reports that the CAA has also been warned of the potential harm of hand sanitiser after an aviation industry worker suffered burns after applying an alcohol-based gel. RNZ says that the gel had not properly dried when the worker touched a metal surface which, due to a build-up of static electricity, ignited the gel and left the worker with first and second-degree burns on both hands.  

The New Zealand CAA is now warning that alcohol gels can ignite if exposed to an ignition source and has recommended that those using such sanitiser gels should make sure the gel has fully dried before touching any surfaces.

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