Hot cars, asphalt can destroy skin during summer swelter

Posted: Updated:

The mercury in central Phoenix was just at 96 degrees at 10 a.m. Friday, but a quick temperature test revealed much hotter outdoor surfaces that were capable of severe skin burns.

With a calibrated infrared thermometer, 3TV Meteorologist Kim Quintero and Charlotte Dewey, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Phoenix, recorded surface temperatures around the KTVK parking lot to demonstrate these hidden dangers.

While the air temperature was below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the thermometer recorded a temperature of 122 on a patch of green grass. Black asphalt was 138 degrees. A nearby rock path was 133. The pavement was 131. A wood dock reached a temperature of 164.

“The pavement outside is absorbing all of that heat energy and that sunlight, and so it's much hotter than the air temperature," said Dewey. "And you would feel that if you were touching it with your hand or a pet touching it with their paws."

Turning to cars, light colored leather seats showed a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, with a seat belt at 130. Both the dashboard and the actual painted steel body of a dark colored sedan sat at temperatures just above 170. All of the mentioned surfaces were exposed to direct sunlight.

According to data from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, human skin is instantly destroyed at 162 degrees Fahrenheit. The minimum safe temperature for cooking ground beef is 160. An egg can fry at 144 degrees. Skin receives 2nd degree burns at 131 and first degree burns at 118, with initial pain threshold for skin contact at 111 degrees.

With these scorching temperatures, Dewey stressed the importance of a touch test.

“It may only take a second or a millisecond to touch it and realize it's too hot," said Dewey. "So if it's too hot for you to touch with your hand for that brief moment, it's likely too hot for children to play on that equipment for pets to walk on the ground.”

While children, pets and elderly are most susceptible to heat related injuries and illnesses, Dewey said nobody should let their guard down this time of the year in the desert.

“It affects everybody. You could be a resident here for your whole life, you could be visiting for the weekend.”