We’ve written extensively on the many problems that disposable bottled water causes. We’ve elucidated how wasteful it is, opined about its inferiority compared to reusable bottles, and we’ve looked at how plastics can leave you drinking more than just water. Yet, through all that, we never dreamed of the devilish disposable bottle being a fire hazard.
An Idaho Power Company technician by the name of Dioni Amuchastegui found out the hard way about the potential danger of plastic bottles. While enjoying his lunch break in his work truck, he noticed smoke rising from the passenger seat. Reacting quickly, he found that sunlight refracting through his water bottle had begun to set fire to the upholstery on his seat.
Mr. Amuchastegui, assisted by the company’s safety officer, put together a short video posted on the Idaho Power Company’s Facebook page. The video, which has since gone viral, serves as a bit of a public safety announcement for this relatively unknown hazard.
Starting (or avoiding!) A Fire With A Plastic Water Bottle
In the video above from Idaho Power, Mr. Amuchastegui replicates the conditions of the original incident while testing with a heat gun, registering temperatures up to 215°F in his test. As a response to the popularity of the video, fireman David Richardson of the Midwest City Fire Department in Oklahoma conducted his own test, demonstrating how easy it is to start a fire with a plastic water bottle concentrating the energy of the sun.
“Vinyl generally starts to burn at 455 degrees,” Richardson said in an interview with CBS. “It wouldn’t take very long to start a fire if conditions were right — depends on how focused that beam of light is.”
While this is certainly a slow-burning threat to begin with, left unattended this could lead to a serious fire starting up in your car or your home. Next time you see a plastic bottle sitting in the window, think about putting it somewhere a bit shadier. Not only is there a potential fire hazard, but storing the water at a cooler temperature will also slow the growth of microorganism and the leaching of plastic chemicals into your water.
Knowledge is Power
When I first read this story I was reminded of old episodes of Survivorman where Les Stroud would demonstrate a fire starting technique which utilizes a disposable plastic water bottle. What in everyday life is something of a hazard can prove to be an asset in a true emergency.
Check out this short video demonstrating how to start a fire with a water bottle:
At the end of the day, we recommend getting rid of your disposable bottles entirely. Disposable bottles are wasteful for your wallet and for the whole world, creating unnecessary waste and expenditures of vital resources. Get yourself a high-quality reusable water bottle and save yourself from burning away your money. Maybe even literally!
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Your disposable plastic water bottle might be a bit more dangerous than you think.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.