Aerosol products bigger source of pollution

Consumer aerosol products, such as deodorants release more volatile organic compound pollution than all cars in the UK, according to new research by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and University of York.

Researchers found that aerosol products now account for 6.1 per cent of all volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions in the UK, which equates to more emissions than the entire car fleet.

The harmful chemical pollutants are a precursor to toxic smog yet are used in nearly all compressed aerosol dispensers. High concentrations of VOCs can cause symptoms ranging from headaches and lung irritation, to nervous system damage and some types of cancer if used in an enclosed space. If they are released outside, they can react with secondary pollutants to create small particulate matter and photochemical smog, which can cause irreversible damage to our hearts and lungs and devastate wildlife and agriculture.

In part, the increasing proportion of VOC emissions from domestic products in the UK has been fuelled by the decline in emissions from vehicles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, cars were by far the largest source of VOC pollution in the UK, but these emissions have been driven down by measures including catalytic converters and fuel vapour recovery at filling stations.

The emphasis is now on international policymakers to find equally successful ways to clean up compressed aerosols, either by reducing the use of VOCs, or encouraging less damaging propellants such as nitrogen.

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