Friday, January 28, 2011

Some Consumers are Really Getting It!

Although there is still widespread confusion about aerosol spray products’ impact on the environment, some consumers have the facts straight and are sharing their knowledge. In a recent article on there is a section that points out that aerosol hairsprays haven’t contained CFCs since 1978 and they also have very low VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Anne Fritz in Every Day Health writes:

Many people still believe that the use of aerosol hair spray puts holes in the ozone layer. In reality, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which do destroy the ozone layer, were banned from hair sprays and other aerosols by the United States in 1978. In addition, since 1999, most major hair spray brands have been reformulated so that they contain a smaller percentage of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which increase smog, to meet tighter standards introduced by the California Air and Resource Board. Although these tougher standards are currently enforced only in California, most national brands offer the same product across the country — so even if you live in Nebraska, your hair spray is probably less harmful today than it was ten years ago.

In a blog posting on a site called a mother talks about how the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the ‘costs.’ She finds that sunscreen in an aerosol spray container is much more convenient and effective to prevent sunburns on her kids than the more traditional lotion, and she researches to learn that consumer aerosol products don’t have CFCs (and haven’t for several decades) and are also recyclable! Karina of Tiny Choices writes:

These days, though, if something is related closely to food or body care the propellants are more inert – usually propane or butane (though flammable) or CO2 or nitrous oxide. Interestingly, the aerosol products industry group reports that in recent studies 7 out of 10 American’s think that CFCs are still present in aerosol cans! Even though this has been outlawed for several decades in the US.

So if the problem isn’t the ozone then it stands to reason that the aerosol can may be the more appropriate choice over a plastic bottle, right? But how to take care of end-of-life issues?

Earth911 points out that I should be able to recycle at the local level, as long as the can is actually empty… My research turned up another resource, though, which is interesting and hugely useful for people with limited municipal recycling options: has a very useful search feature on their website that looks up where you can recycle hard to recycle materials.

It looks like we’re off to a good start in 2011 with 2 great examples of consumers and the media getting the facts about aerosol products and sharing those facts with their readers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Aerosols vs. Aerosol Products

Often consumers and media alike confuse “aerosol products” with the broader term “aerosols.” According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary the word “Aerosol” has 2 definitions:

1. : a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles in gas ; also plural : the fine particles of an aerosol
2. : a substance (as an insecticide or medicine) dispensed from a pressurized container as an aerosol; also : the container for this

Most people think that aerosol products (the second definition) is the only definition for aerosols, and they read scientific reports on climate change and incorrectly attribute the affects of stratospheric aerosols (first definition: fine particles in the air that come from carbon emissions and other natural causes) to aerosol products. This leads to confusion and unwarranted negative association of the aerosol product form to global warming.

A recent blog posting by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) gives many examples of how technical scientific terminology is often misinterpreted by the layman. The article states “there are dozens of words common to climate change research that have the same problem, she said: “error, values, risk, uncertainty – even “aerosol,” which means a small atmospheric particle to scientists, but means “spray can” to many other people.”

Clearly there is a great deal of confusion around aerosol products, and it is important for consumers to know that aerosol products:

1. Do not contain ozone depleting substances (and haven't contained CFCs over 30 years)
2. Do not contribute to global warming

For more information and facts about aerosol products, please visit: