New Jersey Man Blows Up Apartment While Spraying For Bugs

Don’t call Isias Vidal Maceda for advice if you see a creepy critter crawling across your apartment. While spraying for bugs, the New Jersey resident blew out his kitchen windows and started a fire that destroyed 80% of his apartment. Sound outlandish? According to TV, it’s entirely plausible…

Mythbusters confirmed that aerosol bug sprays could ignite and explode, but the killjoys at Slate aren’t convinced.

How many cans of Raid would it take to hit these levels? Take a sealed room that’s 10-by-10 feet, containing 28,320 liters of air. For propane, the most dangerous concentrations are between 2.1 percent and 10.1 percent. It would take about 15 liters of propane to exceed one quarter of that lower limit in our hypothetical room. Since a standard, 17.5-ounce can of Raid contains about 0.29 liters of propane and similar propellants, you would need to empty at least 50 full cans of bug spray before you crossed that threshold.

This calculation assumes that all the propellants released into the room are distributed evenly in the air. In fact, the propane and butane are heavier than air and are therefore more likely to settle in one place. As a result, the hydrocarbons in a single can of bug spray might be sufficient to create a small pocket of explosive gas somewhere in a room. Temperature and humidity also play a role: It takes less bug spray to blow up a dry, hot room than a cold and wet one.

Still, the score remains:

Isias Vidal Maceda: 0
Bugs: 1

Man blows up apartment spraying for bugs [Reuters]
MythBusters (season 2) [Wikipedia]
Can Bug Spray Explode? [Slate]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. snoop-blog says:

    I’ve always wanted a flame thrower. You know, in the event that all the ants in the world try to take over…

  2. 6a says:

    Apparently he didn’t realize that, being an apartment, spraying would be quite useless. The bugs simply head next door and wait out the storm.

  3. RabbitDinner says:

    Lol. And I just rewatched Backdraft last night

  4. RabbitDinner says:

    I thought this was one of those stories where someone fumigates their house, and thinks, the more the merrier, and blows out a wall of their house. But not far off

  5. Rachacha says:

    Are you sure it was a house in New Jersey and not a travel trailer in Arizona? [consumerist.com]

    Crap, I just gave the RV dealer a way to get out of the contract with Pat. Sorry man!

  6. RabbitDinner says:

    I don’t know if bug spray can explode, all I know is, a particular one of my friends used to have way too much fun making fireballs with a can of OFF and his lighter

  7. DeeJayQueue says:

    Mythbusters did this a couple years ago. Not to say that their findings are irrefutable, but what they found was that with only a source of ignition, it would indeed take like 50 cans of spray to blow up a house, but even then it would just be a quick burst and not a prolonged flame.

    I’ll bet the cans blew up somewhere near something else flammable, like the gas stove or something, and that was what really set the apartment on fire.

  8. RabbitDinner says:

    And why in his kitchen? Isn’t Raid poisonous?

  9. Pasketti says:

    The killjoys at Slate seem to have focused on the propellant and ignored the payload, conveniently sprayed into tiny, aerosol-sized, easily-combustible droplets.

  10. RabbitDinner says:

    So is this one of those “learn from their mistakes” posts? Because all this seems like is a potential Darwin award

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    Well, okay. But the bugs are dead, right?

  12. SinisterMatt says:

    That was intelligent.

    Cheers!

  13. dangermike says:

    A few things:

    1) Mythbusters is full of crap. More often than not, their science is bad. It’s entertaining, but that’s about it.

    2) The 50 can figure above is based on some faulty assumptions, as pointed out both in the article and by other readers, including the likely fact that everything in the spray is combustible, especially when aerosolized, that the spray would likely be more concentrated where he’s spraying (putting down a whole can to the proper concentration near a pilot light would cause a pretty nasty explosion. Just lighting the spray as it comes out of the can will touch off a fireball about 18-24″ wide and rupturing a can near a source of ignition can easily light one off that’s 7-10 feet wide or more. Don’t ask how I know that.)

    3) If it was a fogger rather than a spray can, this sort of thing does happen several times each year.

  14. RabbitDinner says:

    @dangermike: Agreed, fogger seems the most reasonable

  15. snoop-blog says:

    I have a buddy who works for orkin and he gave me some cans of the prescription treatment kill on contact, and residual spray. That is truely the best I have ever seen. The bugs don’t even have a “wicked witch meltdown” period where they slowly die. Nope, this stuff is INSTANT!

  16. Mike8813 says:

    @Trai_Dep: That’s the important question.

    If ants or mosquitoes were the problem, then sure, he might have went a little overboard. But spiders? Cockroaches? Getting rid of those bastards is worth any means necessary.

    And besides, he’s still got 20% of his apartment left, right?

  17. tedyc03 says:

    I’m thinking the explosion and ensuing fire likely resultd in the death of the bugs…but that’s a pricey way to be rid of them!

  18. RoninianHoon says:

    Fire ants I tell you fire ants will kill us all…

  19. YOUR APARTMENT ASPLODE.

    /virtual Strong Bad’d

  20. DeeJayQueue says:

    @dangermike:
    1. The Mythbusters aren’t scientists. They’ll be the first people to tell you that. They test the circumstances of the myths to the best of their ability, which is better than either of us I dare say. Plus, what winds up on the cutting room floor are the tons of repetitive small scale experiments that they do prior to the giant large scale one. Sure you see them do it once and it works out, but you don’t see the days leading up to that.

    2. Ok, so are you saying that this guy left a fogger next to a zippo and threw knives at it? I believe we’re talking about a guy who fogged his apartment with the pilot light on, and it touched off a fireball that caught his curtains, then couch, etc. on fire, not a Terminator 2 style blow-up-the-entire-floor-of-an-office-building explosion from just one can of Raid.

    3. Indeed it does happen several times a year, and it’s almost always caused by people that don’t put out their pilot lights or turn off their thermostats, and then put 15-20 cans of fogger out at the same time, or use 3 or 4 cans in a small sealed room.

  21. se7a7n7 says:

    The real question is, did he get rid of the bugs?

  22. SuperJdynamite says:

    “The bugs don’t even have a “wicked witch meltdown” period where they slowly die. Nope, this stuff is INSTANT!”

    I don’t know why you’d want that. The idea is that insecticides disrupt insect neurotransmitters that humans don’t have and, as such, they’re pretty safe. I’d be wary of a spray that instantly killed things where the mechanism of death was unknown.

  23. aerick says:

    God I hate Mythbusters. They suck donkey a$$.

    Thats all I have to say about that

  24. snoop-blog says:

    @SuperJdynamite: Oh believe me, I’ve tasted it a few times… no I’m kidding. I always use gloves and never spray in areas people, or pets, can access. I haven’t used the kill on contact for years, ever since we got a dog. Now I do about 3 times a year, use the residual spray around windows and doors on the outside of the house. Never had an ant, nor a spider come in since. Although, I don’t mind spiders, because they eat other insects.

  25. lockdog says:

    Raid makes a great little “safer” bug and spider repellent that is mostly clove oil and cinnamon oil. I use it anytime I have to work in my crawl space. Spray a little of that stuff down there a few days before I planning on doing the job. All the bugs move out of the crawl space and into the house.

  26. EyeHeartPie says:

    @Mike8813: I keep spiders around because they eat cockroach eggs and other critters. I can deal with the occasional spider siting if it keeps away roaches and ‘skeeters and other such annoyances.

  27. ChuckECheese says:

    @SuperJdynamite: Many insecticides are poisonous to people as well as critters, and have similar neurological effects on people as well as bugs.

    Hot Shot makes a product called “kitchen bug killer” that is made with pyrethrum daisy/chrysanthemum flowers (the original insecticide). The best idea is to research your poisons carefully before you start spraying.

    On the other hand, Hot Shot’s spider/scorpion killer causes bugs hit by the spray to die within about 5 seconds, after disgorging their guts. Scary powerful stuff.

  28. @Trai_Dep: LOL!

    Yeah…there’s always a bright side, right?

    (Aside from the bright explosion, that is…)

  29. Nighthawke says:

    Pull the MSDS (Material Saftey Data Sheets) on a common roach fogger and you’ll see chemical analogs of propane. Butane, Isobutane, and their chemical brothers compromise about 75% of the contents of the foggers. Those contents are as FLAMMABLE as propane itself.

    MSDS sheets are required by OSHA to be readily available by any company that makes chemicals, even ones that make common household chemicals.

    There were court fights between the Fed and the makers of printer ink, primarily inkjet chemicals. They felt that the MSDS sheets would reveal their secret chemical combination to competitors. They compromised and the majority of the contents were published with some contents obscured, especially the harmless items.

    The Mythbusters did everything perfectly, putting over a dozen or so foggers in the house and hitting the sparky. This was mythconfirmed, and is backed by over a dozen reports of apartments getting their windows and doors blasted open by overuse of pest foggers.

  30. yorick328 says:

    Maybe the roaches fought back.

  31. SuperJdynamite says:

    @ChuckECheese: “Many insecticides are poisonous to people as well as critters, and have similar neurological effects on people as well as bugs.”

    Name one insecticide that is a human neurotransmitter inhibitor or agonist.

  32. StoneKitten says:

    ORGANOCHLORINES: EXCITOTOXIC INSECTICIDES
    LINDANE and the CYCLODIENES
    Lindane is the gamma isomer of hexachlorocyclohexane (BHC) (3). Cyclodienes are a class of organochlorine insecticides that are prepared from hexachlorocyclopentadiene by the Diels-Alder and subsequent reactions (3). They include dieldrin, endrin, chlordane, and heptachlor.
    They resemble picrotoxin, an antagonist (inhibitor) of a postsynaptic receptor for the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The binding of GABA to this receptor, called the GABA-A receptor, stimulates influx of Cl- ions which hyperpolarizes the cell and makes it more resistant to depolarization. Thus, these insecticides promote excitotoxicity by blocking the stimulation of Cl- influx by GABA. Lindane and the cyclodienes exhibit significant non-target toxicity. They are very toxic to non-target insects, fish, and birds. The cyclodienes are also toxic to other mammals.

    lalala

  33. satoru says:

    It’s entirely plausible to start A FIRE that consumes a significant portion of your home or apartment from a single ignition source. A single can of bug fogger is definitely not going to blow up your home in a Hollywood style way. It will however be very effective at igniting anything near it like say your extremely flammable polyester curtains, or your carpet, or couch, or any dozens upon dozens of things that can catch on fire and burn your home down.

    If you think a fogger is insufficient to cause a fire, remember the single most common cause of entire homes burning to the ground to smoldering ashes:

    A lit cigarette or its remains

  34. dabofug says:

    SuperJdynamite, I’m not anti-insecticide, just givin’ ya the facts from Med School Pharma/Tox 101. The vast majority of insecticides are neurotoxins for most species, and the antidote is the same : Atropine, same as for Sarin & other anti-mammal (people) Nerve toxins. Organochorines, Organophosphates, same mechanism of action. I’ve always been tempted to leave some blowfish livers or Castor Bean curd out to see how my little nocturnal visitors respond.
    In answer to your request : “Name one insecticide that is a human neurotransmitter inhibitor or agonist”, the response is, pretty much all of them. It’s all in the LD50.
    Welcome to Joe’s apartment.

  35. nursetim says:

    Mythbusters did their experiment after a story came out about a guy doing that to his house. So it was not like they were testing something unknown. The show is mostly entertainment, but they also use a lot of problem solving, and besides, sometimes you just want to see something blow up.

  36. GamblesAC2 says:

    This is why I try not to read the Slate as much as possible beacuse ateh A) Kill my fantastical fun all the time lol and B) Beacuse they always seem so eletist…and I dont think I’m okay with that.

    @SuperJdynamite: you want specifics: ok 10 nurotoxic pesticides (in no specific order) Carbofuran,lindane,Endosulfan, methyl bromide,Mirex,Toxaphene,(E)-Mevinphos,aldicarb, & pentachlorophenol.

    [www.pesticideinfo.org]

  37. GamblesAC2 says:

    @GamblesAC2: damn i gotta get better at font code

  38. levenhopper says:

    Wait…wouldn’t it be:

    Isias Vidal Maceda: 1
    Bugs: 0

    I’m assuming that the fire would have killed the bugs.

  39. ChuckECheese says:

    Thank you everybody for answering SuperJD’s question for him.

  40. Dabigkid says:

    Darn it! And I was hoping the gene pool would have improved. OP doesn’t have a very happy ending.

  41. bwcbwc says:

    @Pasketti: Not to mention that the propane volume as a gas is much larger than the compressed volume in the can.