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Are aerosol cans safe for the environment or not? 2020-12-18

Aerosol spray cans were introduced in 1941. According to one industry executive, "The forerunner of today's aerosol was first widely used to protect U.S. servicemen from mosquitoes and malaria during World War II." Some 50 years later, the industry reports that it "recently reached the 3 billion mark in aerosol units filled." That's a lot of cans.

But the important question is: Are aerosol cans safe for the environment or not? Here are some answers:

Are they safe for the ozone layer?

Until 1978, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used in aerosol cans as propellants, but which are destructive to the ozone layer. Most aerosol manufacturers substituted new gases that are not harmful to the ozone layer.

However, there are exceptions. In some cases, manufacturers are using a chemical called 1,1,1 trichlorethane (also called TCA 1,1,1 and methyl chloroform) as solvents in aerosols. It can be just as bad for the ozone layer as CFCs. So be sure to check the ingredients of aerosol cans, even if they say "ozone friendly" on them.

Are aerosol cans recyclable?

They're made of steel, so the technical answer is yes. But the National Recycling Coalition tells us that very few of them actually gets recycled. It's a difficult process because the cans have to be drained and the plastic parts have to be removed. What's more, cans that contain hazardous material must be cleaned first.

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