Viral video fact-check: Using perfume in air-conditioned car led to a fire?

A video is viral on social media in which young men sitting in a car go up in flames after the one seated on the back seat lights fire. The video is accompanied with a claim stating –  “When the Air Conditioner is switched on your car, please do not open any perfume bottle. The result can be fatal.”

The video seems to have been widely forwarded on WhatsApp. It has also been shared on Facebook.

India.com had published an article on the same video in 2015. The media outlet also claimed that ignition of perfume caused the mishap. But went a step further to allege that the explosion took place when one of the boys used a lighter to smoke. India.com warned its readers to not use air freshers in cars because they can “easily” cause fire and wrote – “Many of us use air-freshener in our cars. Have you ever thought that air-freshener can kill you? No, we aren’t kidding. Use of air-freshener is extremely dangerous and may cause you serious harm.”

Fact-check

Alt News used InVid to break down the video into several keyframes, then performed a reverse image search of one of the frames on Yandex. This led us to a 2015 article on American website Heavy.com titled – WATCH: Kid Uses Lighter in Car Full of Leaking Aerosol Spray.” 

The article cited a report by Saudi Arabian website Akhbarakaccording to which, two boys went up in flames after accidentally igniting a leaking can of Fid Fad, a common anti-static spray in used in Gulf countries. The boys were reportedly brothers and Akkbarak includes a statement from one of them – My brother and I are both fine, thank God. I got 6% burns to my body. What happened was that we were having fun in the car filming a video with the windows closed and we smelled something funny but we didn’t know it was Fid Fad and we didn’t give it much attention. Then my brother used the lighter which set the gas on fire. I’m glad to say we are safe and all the rumours that got out are not true, and be careful of gas leaks anywhere.”

A keyword search on Google also led Alt News to other articles – Mirror and Unilad – pertaining to the videoA few on social media claimed that the fire was caused because the boys were using inflammable drugs in the car. In their statement, however, one of the brothers called all rumours to be untrue and that the mishap was sparked by a leaking Fid Fad bottle.

The video is viral in the Indian social media ecosystem with the false claim that the boys went up in flames because perfume was used in an air-conditioned car. While aerosol sprays are inflammable, explosions like the one in the video are rare and most likely to occur when sprays are used in confined spaces or there is a gas build-up. Furthermore, gas can ignite with or without air-conditioning and social media claims suggesting otherwise fuel unnecessary fear.

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