The mercury is rising in many parts of the world. Death Valley just set a sizzling heat record, South Korea has endured over 15 days of temperatures reaching 35°C (95°F), and parts of Europe are experiencing temperatures in excess of 42°C (107°F).
While you’re out making the most of the glorious Sun, it’s worth remembering that even slightly warm weather can practically turn your car into an oven. Most people are aware of this risk to children and pets, but it’s lesser known that even an aerosol canister can pose a nasty threat, as this story grimly shows.
A 57-year-old man in the UK needed a series of operations after an aerosol can exploded and lodged in his body, The Liverpool Echo reports.
Graham Shwenn, a retired engineer from Merseyside in the UK, picked up a set of aerosol spray paint cans that had been sitting on the seat of his friend’s RV throughout Friday afternoon. Presumably heated up by the Sun's rays, one of the cans exploded in his hand and blew metal fragments into his body.
“He was just getting into the van. The aerosol cans were on the seat,” his wife told The Liverpool Echo. “He picked them up to put them out and one of them exploded and embedded into his groin, genitals, and stomach."
Over the weekend, he underwent two operations (including a skin graft), and doctors have warned that his recovery could be long.
He wants people to be aware about the dangers of leaving aerosol cans exposed to the heat,” she added.
Even though this case involved spray paint, it’s possible that the same could happen with hairspray, deodorant, whipped cream, or any pressurized canister.
Aerosol cans contain liquid particles suspended by a mixture of gases. The contents of the can are placed under a pressure that’s higher than atmospheric pressure, so when you click down the valve, the contents spray out in a mist. If the can is heated up, its particles speed up their movement, exerting more pressure on the inside of the can. Most pressurized cans are purposely designed to endure higher pressures than average; however, given enough heat, the pressure will be too great and the can will rip open, rapidly releasing its pressure and causing an explosion.
It doesn’t even have to be a scorching day to achieve this effect. If outside temperatures are in the mid-20°C (~80°F), the inside of a car left in the direct sunlight can quickly heat up to over 48°C (120°F). That’s true even if the car windows are left partially open.
Long story short: If it's a warm day, don't leave kids, pets, or aerosol cans in your car unattended.