Are Aerosols Bad for the Environment?

aerosol paint spray can

Aerosols – something you likely use within your day-to-day life, at home and in the workplace, with little thought behind the impact this could be having on the world around you. In this blog, we will provide valuable insights into the use of aerosols, and how they could be negatively affecting the environment.

What are aerosols?

Aerosols are tiny particles that are suspended in the air. There are two types of aerosols: natural and anthropogenic aerosols. Natural aerosols include fog, mist, volcanic ash and sea spray, and come from natural sources such as volcanic eruptions, biomass burning and wildfires. Whereas anthropogenic aerosol particles, likely what you are more familiar with in daily life in spray or can form, can be things like deodorant, cigarette smoke and air fresheners. Human made aerosols are another form of aerosols created by pollution from power plants and cars.

Aerosols at home

It’s no surprise that aerosol sprays are often popular at home, for they are easily transportable and leak-resistant, meaning they can be used throughout the house, without making a mess.  Here are just a few of the aerosols which you may use in your home life.

  • Hair spray
  • Deodorant sprays
  • Oven cleaners
  • Vegetable oil sprays
  • Medicinal sprays
  • Insect sprays

Aerosols at work

The convenience of aerosol sprays doesn’t just extend to household use, and they are regularly found within the workplace. Some examples of where aerosols are used in commercial environments include:

  • Spray paints
  • Lubricant
  • Cleaner fluid
  • Air fresheners

What are the environmental impacts of aerosol pollution?

It’s clear there are benefits of using aerosol cans, but are you aware of the significant impact they can have on the environment? Before picking up another spray, here are some environmental considerations which may cause you to think twice:

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Chlorofluorocarbons (AKA CFCs) were once commonly used in aerosols but were found to cause significant damage to the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. Since being banned, many people have been led to believe that this has eliminated the damage that aerosols have on the environment. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

The chemicals now used in compressed aerosols are predominantly made up of VOCs. A study from the University of York revealed that aerosol products now emit more harmful VOC air pollution than all the vehicles in the UK. VOCs are a precursor to toxic smog. Not only can toxic smog within enclosed spaces lead to damaging human health effects ranging from headaches to cancer but when released outside, they can react with secondary pollutants to create small particulate matter, which has devastating effects on wildlife and agriculture.

Whilst VOCs are found to be less damaging than the ozone-depleting CFCs once prevalent in aerosol products, which were replaced in the 80s, the volume of usage is cause for concern, with the world’s population now using more than 25 billion cans per year.

Climate change

Aerosols can affect the climate just as strongly as that of greenhouse gases, just in a different way. For instance, aerosols can scatter incoming sunlight and reduce the amount of radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, which in turn can cool down the planet. But, on the other side of the argument, black carbon or brown carbon/organic matter can absorb and re-emit radiant energy, which can contribute to global warming.

Cloud formation

The New York times announced that a study by the University of Maryland found that increases of air pollution from aerosols can affect cloud formation in a way that causes drier regions to get even less rain and wetter regions to experience more snowfall, rain and severe weather. Clouds in dirty regions can be twice as thick as clouds in clean areas, and the probability of heavy rain is doubled. This led to a professor from the university to state “this study adds urgency to the need to control sulfur, nitrogen and hydrocarbon emissions.”

Hazardous waste

Whilst aerosol cans themselves typically use recyclable materials such as tinplated steel and aluminium, the leftover materials inside the cans pose more of a threat if not disposed of correctly. Since aerosols contain liquid or gas, which are pressurized with a propellant, if the can is not completely empty, it should be deemed as hazardous waste. Most councils will collect aerosols via household collection, otherwise they should be taken to your local recycling facility and put into the correct banks.

The safe disposal of aerosol cans is crucial for both individuals and businesses to avoid the environmental repercussions that can occur with improper disposal.

Reducing reliance on aerosols

It’s evident that aerosols can have detrimental effects to both the environment and the humans within, so how can we reduce reliance on these essential everyday products? There are a wide range of alternatives available that can replace your favourite products both at home and in the workplace, that you just may not yet have discovered. Here are some examples:

Reducing reliance on aerosols at home

Switching to roll-on deodorant

Switching to roll on deodorant is a better choice for the environment, and your health, as it comes in recyclable packaging and contains fewer harmful chemicals. On top of that, unlike the spray alternatives, roll-ons don’t contain VOCs, and therefore don’t contribute to air pollution.

Switching to diffusers

If you have an air freshening spray perched in your bathroom, you’re not alone. Whilst we don’t recommend ditching air care for none at all, there are several sustainable options available to achieve a nice smelling living space or bathroom all year round, without the need for harmful aerosols.

Diffuser sticks are not only one of the most visually appealing air fresheners out there but they also release a more gentle scent, making them last longer than their aerosol counterparts. Reed diffusers don’t require a flame to work, making them a safer choice within the home, and both the reeds and glass container are sustainable.

See also  How Smell Can Improve the Customer Experience


Reducing reliance on aerosols in the workplace

Non-Aerosol Lubricants

Whilst your Google shopping searches may be packed with aerosol lubricants, if you know the right places to look, you will find plenty of environmentally friendly alternatives. Several companies now manufacture ozone friendly lubricants without the inclusion of harmful CFCs, such as Super Lube’s non-aerosol sprays.

Switching to the EcoAire air care system

If you enter a foul-smelling washroom then this is without a doubt, the first thing you are going to notice, and it instantly gives you a bad impression. Whereas a clean and fresh smelling washroom will have the opposite effect and will reflect positively on your business.

Reduce your reliance on air fresheners and aerosols with an air care system that uses passive technology and is distributed through natural air flow. The Citron Hygiene EcoAire air care system continually releases an odour neutralising formula into the washroom environment, eliminating malodours and delivering a subtle and pleasing fragrance for all. Switching to a passive air care system such as the EcoAire is a step towards a more environmentally friendly workspace as the special slatted design allows for optimum air movement around the refill without the use of aerosols or propellants, allowing for improved air quality.

Why not check out some other simple changes you can make to your washroom to help the environment?

Protect your employees and care for the environment

Find out how your business can protect its employees and care for the environment with EcoAire. Get in touch today and find out how Citron Hygiene can provide the products and services you need to help make the best possible first impression, whilst taking an environmentally friendly approach in all you do.

Find out how we can help elevate your washroom experience. Talk to us.

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