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Home > Topics > Fire-EMS
February 21, 2013

Santizer, static blamed for hospital fire

A girl who just learned about static electricity may have accidentally sparked the blaze

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — A combination of hand sanitizer, olive oil and static electricity likely caused an accidental fire that burned a young patient at a Portland hospital, the state fire marshal said Wednesday.

Ireland Lane had used an ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizer at Oregon Health & Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Fire Marshal Mark Wallace said. The girl's father, Stephen Lane, has said she also likely wiped the sanitizer on her T-shirt and wiped her bedside table with it.

Olive oil on Ireland's T-shirt and hair compounded the severity of the Feb. 2 fire, Wallace said. Olive oil is sometimes used to remove the glue that holds electrodes to the scalp for an EEG exam.

The girl, who turns 12 Thursday, had recently learned about static electricity and apparently was trying to create static sparks in her bed by scuffing her feet and rubbing the bed linens. Wallace said a static charge likely ignited fumes from the hand sanitizer and burned Ireland's olive oil-saturated cotton shirt.

"This was a very unusual combined set of circumstances that resulted in this young girl getting burned," the fire marshal said.

The Klamath Falls child suffered second- and third-degree burns to about 18 percent of her body, The Oregonian has reported. Ireland has already undergone one skin graft surgery and a second surgery was scheduled for Thursday.

The hospital, which supplied the hand sanitizer, immediately announced changes in its protocols.

Patients sometimes use olive oil to remove the glue that holds electrodes to the scalp for an EEG exam if the patient is allergic to the common compound that is used, a hospital spokesman told The Oregonian.

"We are no longer suggesting the use of olive oil for patients who have an allergic reaction to EEG gel remover," Dr. Stacy Nicholson, hospital physician-in-chief, said after the findings were announced. "In addition, while our placement and use of hand sanitizer meets industry standards, we plan to review our procedures to see if there are any additional adjustments we can make to promote safety."

Wallace said alcohol-based hand sanitizers are safe when used according to instructions.

"OHSU, as all medical facilities in Oregon, are very safe places," he said. "There is no reason to believe that anyone at OHSU or any other medical facility is in danger based on this highly unusual event."

Associated PressCopyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

A survivor of a rare childhood kidney cancer, Ireland had been was admitted to the hospital initially because she hit her head at school and lost consciousness. She was due to leave the hospital the day of the fire.

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