When it comes to plastics, we all know we should be recycling— but it turns out that discarded water bottles can be an even bigger danger than we thought.
While we’re all guilty of leaving a discarded drink in a car at one point or another, leaving a water bottle out can be particularly dangerous— especially in the right weather conditions.
One Idaho Power employee learned this lesson the hard way, describing the experience in a video that was uploaded to the Idaho Power Facebook page on July 13th, 2017.
Dioni Amuchastegui, a battery technician at Idaho Power, had taken an early lunch and was enjoying a meal in his work truck when all of a sudden he noticed a curl of smoke out of the corner of his eye.
The weather was hot that day, and it turns out that Dioni had left an unemptied bottle of water on the seat beside him.
Like a magnifying glass, the water in the plastic bottle refracted the light from the sun, creating enough heat to set the truck’s passenger seat ablaze.
Luckily, Dioni was there at the time and able to move the bottle before things got any worse. Still, however, the passenger seat was left with 2 burn marks, a testament to what could have occurred.
In the video, Dioni explains, “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.”
Science Focus explains, “The sun’s rays bathe the Earth in a constant flow of thermal energy spread over square meter. While this is too dilute to ignite paper, wood, or other combustible substances, if the rays are focused, the flow of energy becomes concentrated enough to exceed the threshold for combustion.”
And it’s not just un-discarded water bottles that can be a trigger either— Science Focus says that the London Fire Brigade reported 125 sun-triggered fires between 2010 and 2015.
They say, “Fishbowls, jam-jars, and even glass door knobs have been implicated in focusing the sun’s rays sufficiently to cause smoldering, followed by a full-scale blaze.”
Since being posted on Facebook, Dioni’s warning has been viewed by over 125,000 people and shared over 1,300 times.
While the safest course of action is to immediately discard all un-emptied plastic bottles from vehicles, if they absolutely must be near, make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight.
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