A new study has revealed that when a house is painted with a coating of high-temperature acrylic paints, the chances of an explosive explosion happening are one in 200,000.
That means that, on average, an earthquake would happen on average once every 200 years in a country of 20 million people.
“We’ve known for a long time that the probability of an explosion happening in a house was low, but we never really thought it would be as low as that,” says Dr David Fenton from the University of Portsmouth, who led the study.
“The chances are actually quite high.”
Dr Fenton is the lead author of a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change which analysed the risk of an industrial accident or terrorist attack caused by a blast of high temperature acrylic paints on the home.
“High-temperatures can cause an explosive reaction,” says lead author Dr Richard Stuckey.
“In fact, the chemical reaction itself is called the thermonuclear reaction.”
This is the key difference between a blast and an explosion.
The explosion, when it does occur, is much smaller and far less destructive than the blast itself.
“If you are in a room where a blast could happen and you are able to escape from it by moving away, the only thing you will do is go out the back of the room,” he says.
The other difference is that the blast will not necessarily be a large explosion, so it is harder to prevent and it is far more difficult to escape.
“You could be trapped, but you are not likely to be hurt,” says Professor Stuckeys.
“A blast that could happen in a garage would probably be worse, but it would not be as destructive as a blast from a building.”
What is a thermonucleus?
A thermonovirus is a protein that lives in the nucleus of a virus.
It is one of the key proteins in the thermo-nuclear reaction that produces explosive and incendiary chemical agents, such as thermonium-235, thermonic acid and nitric acid.
“Thermonuclear reactions are the primary means by which a thermoengineer can create large amounts of heat,” says Prof Stuckers team.
“It’s the primary way that thermonia is used as a fuel in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and explosives.”
Dr Stucks team also discovered that the chance of an accident occurring was increased by up to one in every 50 million households.
“These results suggest that a house painted with highly toxic, high-precision acrylic paint could trigger an explosion every 200,00 years, but they also suggest that it is unlikely to happen once every few hundred years,” says the lead researcher.
Dr Fence adds: “The question is: what about the other 50 million people?”
The team found that the higher the concentration of paint used, the greater the risk.
“There is a significant correlation between the amount of paint and the chance that an explosion will occur in a household,” says Stuckys team.
For example, paint with a paint that is 0.5 millimetres thick would be at the very highest risk of a blast.
“But it’s really unlikely that the house will explode on the average,” says Fenton.
“That means that the risk would be one in 10,000.”
But what does that mean for homeowners?
The paint is not the only way to increase the risk, says the team.
As well as the thermic reaction, the paint itself can also be responsible for triggering an explosion, says Stuks team.
This could include any of a range of chemicals, including acids, compounds that can leach into the air and even some organic compounds.
“Our results show that it’s not just paint but also the high temperatures of the paint that can trigger an explosive chemical reaction in a large household,” concludes Stucs team.
A few other factors contribute to the explosion risk.
High temperatures can lead to increased stresses in a home’s plumbing, pipes, wiring, appliances and equipment, the researchers say.
“Heat can also cause problems with the insulation in homes, for example in the attic or walls,” says team member Professor Stuky.
“Some people are also more likely to have poor ventilation or lack of insulation, which can make a house more susceptible to fire.”
The researchers say the results suggest the best way to avoid the risk is to keep your home painted with paint that does not contain the harmful chemicals.
But that may be harder than it sounds.
“As paint is an industrial process, you need to think about how you’re storing and using it,” says Peter Jankowiak from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
“Even if you’re not using it as a building material, it is still probably important.”