Household aerosols such as air fresheners, deodorants, and furniture polish have overtaken cars as a source of smog polluting chemicals in the UK, a new study has found.
It has led to scientists urging people to swap these products for the likes of roll-on deodorant and hair gel – as small changes can lead to large changes in air quality.
Researchers looked into the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – the chemicals found in aerosol sprays – which are less damaging than chlorofluorocarbons that they replaced in the 1980s.
However, these chemicals can cause photochemical smog when combined with nitrogen oxide in sunlight.
While vehicles were responsible for most VOC emissions into the 2000s, scientists found that the use of catalytic converters on vehicles and fuel vapour recovery at filling stations has led to a rapid decline.
Researchers are now calling for the use of less damaging nitrogen as a propellant, as well as a wider awareness of how polluting VOCs can be.
The paper, published in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, revealed that the world’s population now uses more than 25 billion cans per year – which is estimated to lead to the release of 1.3 million tonnes of VOC air pollution annually.
This could rise to 2.2 million tonnes of VOC air by 2050 – leading to calls for people to switch products.