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Household aerosols now release more harmful smog chemicals than cars environmental news

Household aerosols like air fresheners, deodorants and furniture polish have overtaken cars as a source of smog polluting chemicals in the UK, according to a new study.

It has led scientists to urge people to swap these products out for deodorant and hair gel because small changes can lead to big changes in air quality.

Researchers looked at the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC) – the chemicals found in aerosol sprays – which are less harmful than chlorofluorocarbons, which they replaced in the 1980s.

However, when combined with nitrogen oxides in sunlight, these chemicals can cause photochemical smog.

While vehicles were responsible for most of the VOC emissions in the 2000s, scientists found that the use of catalytic converters in vehicles and the recovery of fuel vapors at gas stations led to a rapid decline.

In contrast, the global amount of VOCs emitted from aerosols every year is increasing as lower and middle income economies grow and people in these countries increase their consumption.

According to the study, VOCs are currently used in around 93% of all aerosols.

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Researchers are now calling for the use of less harmful nitrogen as a propellant, as well as greater awareness of how environmentally harmful VOCs can be.

The paper, published in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, revealed that the world’s population now uses more than 25 billion cans a year – which is estimated to release 1.3 million tons of VOC air pollution each year.

That could rise to 2.2 million tons of VOC air by 2050 – which will lead to people being urged to switch products.

Picture:
Scientists urge people to use roll-up deodorants instead of sprays

Professor Alastair Lewis, Director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Leeds, said: “Almost all aerosol-based consumer products can be supplied in non-aerosol form such as dry or roll-on deodorants, non-spray polishes.

“Just small changes to what we buy can have a huge impact on the quality of the air outdoors and indoors and have relatively little impact on our lives.”

“Given the contribution of VOCs to soil pollution, a revision of international policy is needed and continued support for VOCs as the preferred substitute for halogenated hydrocarbons may not be sustainable for aerosol products in the long term,” he added.

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