If like most, once you reached a certain age as an early teen, your parents probably took you down to the local Boots or supermarket to pick you up an antiperspirant. If you were growing up in the ’90s and ’00s, the smell of Lynx Africa or Bubblegum Impulse probably is enough to make your spine shudder or make you feel very nostalgic - that stuff lingered on your clothes for what felt like forever.
But as you were drowning yourself in the aerosol sprays like it was insect repellant, no one ever questioned what the fumes were doing not only for your health but the planet too.
What are Aerosol Sprays?
Technically speaking, an aerosol spray is a type of dispensing system which creates an aerosol mist of liquid particles. Aerosols usually come in the form of a can that will withstand holding a substance under high pressure. When you press the button or lever at the top of the container, it will release the substance. Then, a fine spray will be released into the air or onto a surface - such as your armpit.
An antiperspirant is an aerosol spray that uses aluminium particles to block your sweat ducts, limiting the amount you perspire - all while leaving you smelling fresher with your choice of fragrance.
For the product to be released, the aerosol can has to contain Propylene Gasses: an organic compound that has no colour. It is flammable and often used as fuel, which is why every aerosol can you purchase will have the flame symbol, to indicate that when near fire, it can cause destruction.
Dangers of Aerosol Sprays
1. Toxic Ingredients
When you think about it logically, applying something to your skin every day that can essentially set on fire with just a match, doesn’t sound like the most ideal scenario.
Aerosol antiperspirants rely on aluminium as the active ingredient to temporarily plug and block the sweat glands on your skin, reducing the amount of sweat that seeps through. Other common chemical ingredients found in antiperspirants are parabens, triclosan, phthalates, propylene glycol and aluminium.
Some research has linked these ingredients to medical conditions including linked to forms of breast cancer and reproductive development issues, so the last thing you want is to inhale toxins that have been sprayed in the air via aerosols.
2. Bad for your Health
Many aerosol sprays contain highly toxic chemicals that are proven to be harmful to adults, children and family pets. Not to mention that, when it comes to using antiperspirants, sweating is a natural process that almost every human experiences (apart from the lucky few).
When you perspire, your body releases toxins that you need to release to experience a healthy body function. Most commonly, humans sweat when they exercise, this is your body's way to naturally cool down. Therefore, by preventing this from happening, it doesn’t allow your body to perform a natural process.
3. Disposal of Aerosols
Another danger of aerosols is the task of appropriately disposing of them once you have finished an aerosol spray can. As the climate crisis is spoken about more widely, the public is now more aware than ever of their responsibility to recycle and use sustainable materials. However, with your typical aluminium aerosol container, this isn’t as easy. You need to make sure they are separated from your recyclables unless you specifically break apart the container - separating the plastic from aluminium.
4. Bad for the Climate
Aerosols affect the climate as strongly as greenhouse gases but in a completely different way. They can scatter sunlight, meaning they cool the planet by reflecting about 1/4 of the sun’s rays have to space, with the IPCC concluding that industrial aerosols have acted to significantly slow the increase in global temperature over the last thirty years.
However other types of aerosol, particularly black carbon or brown carbon/organic matter (depending on the brightness of the underlying ground), will absorb light radiation, adding to warming the atmosphere.
5. Increasing the Number of Clouds
Generally speaking, clouds are believed to cool the earth by increasing the reflectivity of the planet and shading 60% of the planet at any one time. With this in mind, if aerosols increased cloud formation by as little as 5%, it could compensate for the entire increase in greenhouse gases from the modern industrial era. However, a long term decrease in overall cloudiness could have major adverse impacts.
Also, not everyone uses aerosols, so the gas emissions are not distributed around the planet as consistently as greenhouse gases. On a smaller scale the aerosol effects can be significant, but understanding the overarching consequences is currently a high priority for climatologists.
By understanding all of the dangers of aerosol sprays and taking the necessary precautions you can keep the health of your family and the planet safe and also decrease your carbon footprint. Choose a product that doesn’t rely on aerosols whenever possible and keep those around you educated about what aerosol sprays and their harmful effects.