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Household aerosols emit more harmful smog chemicals than cars, UK study finds

Household aerosols emit more harmful smog chemicals than cars, UK study finds

When compared with all UK vehicles, household aerosols release more harmful chemical air pollutants, new research has found. 

Household aerosols emit more harmful smog chemicals than cars, UK study finds

According to the University of York and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, aerosol products used in the home release more harmful air pollution than all vehicles in the UK.

Volatile organic compound (VOC) air pollution is a chemical released by aerosol products. These chemicals are also released from cars and fuels. When in contact with sunlight, VOCs mix with nitrogen oxide pollutants, causing photochemical smog which can harm human health and also damage crops and plants.

The research estimates that more than 25 billion cans of disposable aerosols are used every year worldwide, leading to more than 1.3 million tonnes of VOC air pollution every year. According to the researchers, this could increase to 2.2 million tonnes by 2050.

In high-income countries, every person uses about 10 cans of aerosol a year, mostly found in personal care products.

The researchers who released the report are calling on global policy to cut down the use of VOCs in aerosols, such as encouraging the use of non-aerosol alternatives.

“Virtually all aerosol based consumer products can be delivered in non-aerosol form, for example as dry or roll-on deodorants, bars of polish not spray,” says Professor Alastair Lewis from the Department of Chemistry and a Director of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

“Making just small changes in what we buy could have a major impact on both outdoor and indoor air quality, and have relatively little impact on our lives.

“Given the contribution of VOCs to ground-level pollution, international policy revision is required and the continued support of VOCs as a preferred replacement for halocarbons is potentially not sustainable for aerosol products longer term.”

Consumer habits also play a role in reducing aerosol impact, says Professor Lewis, who recommends products be labelled with their VOC emissions to increase public awareness.

“Labelling of consumer products as high VOC emitting — and clearly linking this to poor indoor and outdoor air quality — may drive change away from aerosols to their alternatives, as has been seen previously with the successful labelling of paints and varnishes.”

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