Are You Still Using Aerosols in Your Home?
We have written about volatile organic compounds (VOCs) before which of course spread toxic air pollutants.
Consumer aerosol products are yet another source of these VOCs and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the University of York in the UK have pointed out that these products continue to be used in spite of this. They are recommending that shoppers should stop buying spray cans of deodorant and air fresheners. Find out more about the dangers of artificial fragrances.
Aerosol products account for a high percentage of all VOC emmisions in the western world with the average person in high-income countries using some ten aerosol cans every year - and most of these contain VOCs.
What happens when VOCs come in contact with air?
They react with ozone gas in the air when they can form dangerous pollutants including particulate matter and formaldehyde.
In addition, when used inside, high concentrations of VOCs can cause unwanted symptoms including irritation to the lungs.
Professor Alastair Lewis (researcher from the University of York) says that people should try to avoid aerosol products wherever possible.
"Making just small changes in what we buy could have a major impact on both outdoor and indoor quality, and have relatively little impact on our lives."
This is not the first time that VOCs have been in the spotlight
During the 1900s and 2000s, our motor vehicles were the largest source of VOC pollution. Bringing in tighter restrictions on exhaust emissions and the introduction of catalytic converters has helped to reduce VOC emissions in recent years.
And another very recent study (this time by the University of Birmingham in the UK) has found that levels of formaldehyde measured in the air above London had risen by a worrying 65 per cent in just six years.
What is the risk of air pollutants to our health?
Scientists have found that exposure to high levels of air pollutants in childhood is associated with poorer mental health in later life as well as learning ability.
Children face special risks from air pollution (a) because their lungs are growing and (b) because they are so active and breathe in a great deal of air. Just like their arms and legs, the largest portion of a child’s lungs will grow long after he or she is born with eighty percent of the lungs' tiny air sacs developing after birth.
When such pollution is linked to traffic, it can lead to asthma attacks, lung damage and other respiratory problems. Many deaths could be avoided if air quality could be improved.
It has been pointed out that international legislation could well be needed to be amended to prevent VOCs being the default replacement for halocarbons in aerosols.
Of course, if everyone stopped buying and using aerosols, the manufacturing industry would soon step in to change things...
Anne Steinemann (2017) Fragranced consumer products: effects on asthmatics
Amy Westervelt (2015) Phthalates are everywhere, and the health risks are worrying. How bad are they really?