Can you start a fire if you leave a water bottle in direct sunlight?

There’s no question that it’s important to stay hydrated when temperatures rise during the summer months, but could leaving a water bottle in your car pose a fire hazard?

This is exactly what happened to Dioni Amuchastegui, a technician from Idaho Power. In a widely released video originally posted to the company’s Facebook page in July 2017, Amuchastegui detailed a close call he got after a water bottle made his truck seat smoke.

“I was having an early lunch and sitting in the truck. I noticed smoke out of the corner of my eye, and looked and noticed that the light was being refracted through a bottle of water and started to catch the seat on fire, ”explained Amuchastegui.

The water bottle, Amuchastegui showed, was left in the way of direct sunlight passing through the driver’s side window. It left two small burn marks on the seat and Amuchastegui said the material was hot to the touch.

“It’s not something you really expect – having a flaming water bottle in your chair,” he added.

But was Amuchastegui’s experience a freak accident or a real threat? A month after posting its original video, the Midwest City Fire Department in Midwest City, Oklahoma put the water bottle scenario to the test.

A video released by firefighters showed David Richardson managed to poke a hole through a piece of paper with a water bottle placed in direct sunlight, although Richardson warned the experiment was largely successful. part because of a perfect storm of circumstances.

“It was a transparent bottle with a clear liquid in it,” Richardson said. “If it was empty or partially filled, it probably wouldn’t have worked or amplified this. Keep in mind that all the factors have to be in place for this to work.”

Amuchastegui’s experiment came amid continued speculation about whether or not it is safe to drink water from plastic containers that have been exposed to the sun for long periods of time.

In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of Florida exposed 16 different brands of bottled water to 158-degree conditions for four weeks. Of the 16 bottles, only one exceeded EPA standards for carcinogenic antimony and bisphenol A (BPA) at the end of the trial, although researchers have always cautioned against leaving bottles of water in cars for long periods of time.

“If you store the water long enough, there may be a problem,” Lena Ma, professor of soil and water sciences at UF, said in a press release, adding that more research is needed. needed to determine if other drinks (especially more acidic drinks like juice and coffee) might have more intense interactions with plastic containers under hot conditions.

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