Why Aerosols Are Harmful For Environment & Your Business?


Updated on April 4, 2024

Many businesses are turning to aerosol air fresheners to combat indoor odours and create a welcoming atmosphere in their workplace.

Seems harmless, right?

Think again.

Are aerosols harmful for environment?

Yes, Modern aerosols may avoid ozone-harming CFCs but can emit VOCs, impacting air quality and contributing to smog and harm the environment. Use them responsibly to minimize environmental effects.

Related Studies 

  • This large-scale study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found a significant association between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and reduced lung function in infants, highlighting the potential long-term health consequences of air pollution exposure. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2010:
  • This study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change,  revealed that black carbon emissions from biomass burning can significantly suppress cloud formation, impacting regional and global climate patterns.
  • This review article, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, 2017,  highlights the widespread presence of microplastics in marine environments and their potential harm to marine ecosystems and potentially even human health.

These seemingly innocuous devices come with a hidden cost that affects both the environment and your staff. In this blog post, we’ll explore the detrimental effects of aerosols and shed light on the alternative of passive systems that use natural airflow, making for a more environmentally responsible air freshener solution.

Summary of Key Points

  • Aerosol Air Fresheners: Contain propellants and chemicals, contributing to indoor and outdoor air pollution through the release of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). They affect cloud formation and rainfall patterns, and their disposal generates hazardous waste.
  • Environmental Consequences: Aerosols add to air pollution, influence climate by affecting cloud properties, and their cans present challenges in waste management due to their pressurized nature.
  • Health Impacts: Aerosols can exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, and the synthetic fragrances they contain might trigger allergies and irritations.
  • Passive Systems: Utilize natural airflow or evaporation, are low maintenance, and use eco-friendly materials. They offer a subtle and consistent scent distribution, aligning with environmentally responsible practices.
  • Citron Hygiene’s EcoAire: A passive system for commercial washrooms that uses a non-aerosol, hydrogen-based odor neutralizer. It’s VOC-free, relies on natural airflow, and features recyclable components.

What’s an Aerosol?

Aerosols can be natural or artificial. Natural aerosols are tiny airborne particles or droplets that occur in the atmosphere due to natural processes and originate from natural sources, such as sea spray, trees and plants, volcanic gas, wildfire smoke, and dust.

Artificial aerosols, which you’re likely more familiar with, are pressurized containers that release a fine mist or spray when the valve is activated. These containers typically house a liquid mixture that includes propellants, solvents, and fragrance chemicals. When released, the liquid transforms into tiny droplets suspended in the air. If it’s an air freshener aerosol, it’ll provide a quick burst of fragrance, possibly among other substances, to mask unwanted odours.

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Aerosols in the Home

The presence of aerosol sprays in our homes is hardly unexpected. Their portability and resistance to leakage make them ideal for use across different rooms, ensuring cleanliness and ease of use. Among the various aerosols you might find in a household setting are:

  • Hair sprays, for styling and maintaining hairdo stability.
  • Deodorant sprays, offering freshness and odor control.
  • Oven cleaners, designed to tackle tough grease and burnt food residues.
  • Vegetable oil sprays, providing a non-stick solution for cooking and baking.
  • Medicinal sprays, used for delivering medications through inhalation.
  • Insect sprays, effective for repelling or killing unwanted pests.

Aerosols in the Workplace

Aerosols prove their utility not just at home but also in professional settings, where their convenience is equally appreciated. In the workplace, aerosols serve various functions, including:

  • Spray paints, for applying color or protective coatings.
  • Lubricants, essential for machinery maintenance and smooth operation.
  • Cleaner fluids, used for a wide range of cleaning tasks.
  • Air fresheners, enhancing the ambiance with pleasant scents.

Environmental Consequences of Aerosol Air Fresheners

Aerosol air fresheners contribute to environmental pollution in several ways:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):

  • Release harmful chemicals into the air, contributing to both indoor and outdoor air pollution, negatively affecting air quality and employee well-being
  • The propellants and chemicals used in compressed aerosols are mostly VOCs, which can release harmful chemicals into the air and contribute to air pollution indoors and outdoors. In addition to having adverse effects on air quality, these substances can also impact the overall well-being of your employees. (More on this later.)

Cloud Formation and Rainfall:

  • Aerosols Influence cloud properties, making them more reflective and affecting solar radiation and temperature.
  • Aerosols Suppress raindrop formation, leading to clouds that persist with very little rainfall, affecting climate and weather patterns.

Aerosols play a crucial role in cloud formation and precipitation processes by influencing the properties of clouds and, therefore, the climate. More aerosol particles in the air lead to more droplets in the clouds.

However, the droplets are smaller, making the clouds more reflective and affecting the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface—this, in turn, influences temperature.

The smaller droplets also suppress raindrop formation because they need to grow big enough to fall, thereby delaying the onset of precipitation.

As a result, regions with a lot of aerosol air pollution may see clouds that persist but with very little rainfall.

Unnecessary Hazardous Waste:

Aerosol cans are often not recycled because even if there’s only a little substance inside, the can is still pressurized, meaning it could explode or combust if it’s punctured. In other words, many aerosols end up in the landfill, which not only adds to the burden on waste management systems but also releases harmful substances when these cans break down over time.

  • Difficult to recycle due to pressurization, posing risks of explosion or combustion.
  • Contribute to landfill burden, releasing harmful substances as cans break down over time.

The Hidden Impact of Aerosol Air Fresheners on Our Health

The health risks associated with aerosol air fresheners include:

  • Respiratory Issues: Fine particles and chemicals can be inhaled deep into the lungs, potentially causing or aggravating respiratory conditions, such as asthma.
  • Cardiovascular Conditions: A 2023 study in Environmental Science and Pollution Research highlights how short-term particle pollution from aerosols can exacerbate pre-existing pulmonary and cardiovascular conditions.
  • Allergic Reactions: Synthetic fragrances may contain allergens and irritants, triggering allergic reactions and discomfort, which can lead to increased sick days and decreased productivity.
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According to a 2023 study in Environmental Science and Pollution Research, exposure to short-term particle pollution from aerosols can also aggravate pre-existing pulmonary and cardiovascular conditions.

Moreover, the synthetic fragrances used in aerosol air fresheners may contain allergens and irritants, triggering allergic reactions and employee discomfort, all of which can lead to increased sick days and decreased overall productivity.

Health Benefits of Avoiding Aerosols

The health benefits of reducing aerosol use in the workplace are significant, supported by various studies and statistics:

Improved Respiratory Health:

A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that reducing exposure to VOCs, commonly found in aerosols, can decrease the risk of developing asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Lower Cardiovascular Risk:

Research in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that long-term exposure to particulate matter, including that from aerosols, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Reducing aerosol use can contribute to a healthier heart.

Several studies have found that exposure to particulate matter over a few hours to weeks can trigger cardiovascular disease-related outcomes, while longer-term exposure (such as a few years) increases the risk for cardiovascular mortality more significantly than shorter-duration exposures.

Additionally, reductions in particulate matter levels are associated with decreases in cardiovascular mortality within a relatively short period, indicating a strong link between particulate matter exposure and cardiovascular health

Decreased Allergy and Irritation Incidents:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), minimizing contact with synthetic fragrances and chemicals in aerosols can significantly reduce allergic reactions and irritation among sensitive individuals, enhancing overall workplace wellness.

Fragrance compounds in these products can trigger adverse effects like headaches, asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, cardiovascular and neurological problems, mucosal irritation, and contact dermatitis

  • Enhanced Cognitive Function: A study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that improved indoor air quality, free from aerosol pollutants, can lead to better cognitive function and productivity among employees. More Studies have shown that gases like carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds commonly found in office buildings can impair cognitive abilities such as problem-solving and decision-making. Even minor adjustments to air quality, leading to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and VOCs, were associated with decreased cognitive functioning among office workers

Passive Systems and Natural Airflow: A Breath of Fresh Air

Unlike aerosols that rely on propellants and chemicals, passive air freshener systems have no batteries, electricity, or active mechanical components. Instead, they rely on natural processes, such as airflow or evaporation, to disperse pleasant fragrances into the environment, usually with a cartridge or medium that contains a natural and environmentally sustainable fragrance.

Here are just a couple of the benefits of switching to a passive air freshener system:

  • Low Maintenance: No batteries or electricity required reduces the environmental impact and eliminates the need for regular maintenance or battery replacements.
  • Natural Airflow: Passive systems leverage natural airflow within a space to disperse the fragrance, such as by strategically placing the cartridge in areas where air currents naturally circulate. Unlike an aerosol air freshener that releases scents in predetermined intervals or through forced mechanisms, passive systems allow the fragrance to disperse naturally and gradually, resulting in a more subtle and consistent scent distribution.
  • More Environmentally Responsible: Most passive systems, such as Citron Hygiene’s EcoAire system, use eco-friendly and recyclable materials for their cartridges. This aligns with environmentally responsible practices, contributing to a more sustainable solution than traditional aerosol air fresheners.
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Sustainable Practices in the Workplace

Beyond the switch from aerosol to passive air freshening systems, businesses can adopt a holistic approach to environmental responsibility through various sustainable practices:

  • Energy Efficiency: Implement energy-saving measures, such as LED lighting, energy-efficient appliances, and smart thermostats, to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Waste Reduction: Emphasize recycling and composting programs to minimize waste. Encourage the use of reusable containers and utensils to cut down on single-use plastics.
  • Sustainable Sourcing: Choose office supplies and furniture made from recycled or eco-friendly materials. Support suppliers who demonstrate environmental stewardship in their production processes.
  • Green Cleaning Products: Use cleaning products that are certified as environmentally friendly, reducing exposure to harsh chemicals and improving indoor air quality.
  • Employee Engagement: Foster a culture of sustainability by involving employees in green initiatives, such as carpooling, cycling to work, or participating in local environmental projects.

Breathe Easy by Making the Switch to EcoAire by Citron Hygiene

At Citron Hygiene, we pride ourselves on being the experts in washroom hygiene. Research shows that people who use the washroom will evaluate cleanliness based on how it smells. In other words, a good-smelling washroom may seem minor, but it’s important because it makes a big impression and impacts how others view your business.

Our EcoAire system, designed for commercial washrooms, uses a non-aerosol hydrogen-based odour neutralizer that is effectively distributed through natural airflow. It provides reliable, continuous odour control 24 hours a day and targets malodours at the molecular level, leaving behind a fresh, clean scent all day and night. Of course, because it’s a passive system, there are no batteries, it’s VOC-free, and all-natural with recyclable components, making it the healthier and more environmentally responsible choice.

The best part is that with Citron Hygiene’s professional washroom hygiene services, you never have to worry about managing refills—our expert technicians will take care of everything from installation to coming and refilling your cartridges on a pre-set schedule. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

By embracing a passive air freshener system like EcoAire, you can effectively create a more pleasant atmosphere without compromising the health of your employees or the environment. Get in touch today to learn more about EcoAire and how Citron Hygiene can help you make the best possible impression every time.

Find out how we can elevate your washroom experience today.

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