There is one critical fact consumers should know about “Canned Air”: it isn’t air! In fact, it is a mixture of flammable gases with names like difluoroethane, triflorouethane and tetrafluoroethane. A cleaning product commonly used in offices and homes, Canned Air might more accurately be called “Compressed Gas Disseminators” or “Gas Dusters.” And it’s imperative to understand these gases are not benign; rather, they cause all sorts of problems relating to personal health, public safety, and the overall environment. The range includes damaging property, the fragile ozone layer and even causing death to some users, if the product is used or stored inappropriately. To help consumers make informed decisions and safeguard their and their family’s property and personal safety, below are the top 10 reasons Canned Air is dangerous…and downright deadly:
Abuse: Tragically, deaths and serious injuries related to “huffing” or “dusting”-the practice of inhaling canned air to “get high”-are on the rise among tweens, teens and adults, alike, since the product is readily available for purchase. All too many mistake the canned contents as merely harmless compressed “air” or oxygen, but this could not be further from the truth. Ingesting canned air can lead to paralysis, serious injuries to internal organs and even death. Not surprising since some canned air actually contains propellants such as Freon, a poisonous substance, and sometimes other toxic compounds. In an attempt to counter this trend, many stores have begun checking customer identifications to keep this noxious-substance out of children’s’ hands.
Injury: When you use a canned-air product, you can feel the can becoming colder. In fact, the temperature of the liquid in canned air can drop to -58 degrees Fahrenheit. Human body exposure to a steady stream of this liquid can cause serious frostbite with deep cracking and damage to muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. If it is spilled or otherwise comes in contact with exposed body parts, even mild frostbite can cause intense burning pain. As well, compressed air pointed towards an eyeball can blow it out of its socket, and the ejection force from these canisters can rupture an eardrum. Many people or everyday users may be unaware of these risks, making the use of canned air even more dangerous.
Asphyxiation: If canned air is not used in an adequately ventilated area, the gases that actually constitute the contents of the container can be toxic and lead to respiratory issues. As mentioned before, the non-air that comes in “canned air” is actually ozone-destroying, greenhouse gas.
Accidental Dizziness: Canned air is no longer allowed on airplanes due to its many harmful attributes. Even if a person is not intentionally “huffing,” just being in proximity to these gasses can cause disorientation and potential injury.
Explosions: The contents of canned air containers are under extreme pressure (up to 70 psi) and can explode when temperatures near 120-degrees, which can easily be reached in a car left out in the summer sun, for instance. The fragments of a ruptured canned-air container can fly out like shrapnel and cause serious injuries to skin and deeper organs, not to mention damage property in the immediate and surrounding area.
Flash Fires: Similarly, the gas inside the canned air container takes the form of a liquid, which can spill when the can is held at an angle. This liquid is extremely sensitive to a spark, even from electrical switches, and can burst into flames that release toxic fumes. According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, an employee working in a bowling alley suffered burns to her face due to a flash fire while she was cleaning a paper-shredder using a canned air product. She inadvertently tilted the can, creating an area of intensely flammable gas in the area. Other similar reports abound.
Pollution: Each year, it’s estimated that 31 million containers of canned air are disposed of and the EPA has declared, “It’s a dangerous, hazardous waste.” One kg of HFC-152, a chemical frequently found in canned air, is equivalent to 124 kg of carbon dioxide! These one-time-use canisters pile up in landfills, equal to the volume of tens of thousands of vehicles! In addition, use of one canister of canned air is equal to burning fully 100 gallons of gasoline. The EPA estimates that HFC-134a, another chemical often found in canned air, has an atmospheric lifetime of about 14 years-a shockingly long length of time this substance contributes to global warming once it’s released from the can.
Contamination: After spraying canned air, even properly, often a chemical residue is left behind. This residue, caused by the “bitterant” flavoring added to deter abuse, can be harmful to the very electronics it was designed to clean and can contaminate food and other surrounding items. It also further limits the potential uses of the product.
Lost productivity: As you can imagine, using a product with so many detailed handling requirements can slow down “the works” both in business and in the home. Using canned air requires that you hold the container upright and you only supply short bursts of propellant at a time. You can’t hold the container at an angle without risking the fluid spill and ice formation that stops functioning altogether. With these short bursts of air, users don’t benefit from a sustained stream of continuous air that would allow them to achieve the task much more efficiently and effectively.
Easy Accessibility: Due to the potentially hazardous effects of the product, sometimes retailers, office managers, homeowners and others must store canned air in a secure fashion-an inconvenient, time-consuming action. However, not everyone takes these precautions and canned air remains an easily accessible and inexpensive way to get high or otherwise abuse the substance. With all of these salient issues, it’s easy to see that “canned air” proffers an array of environmental, safety, and other concerns that, even regarded individually, should inspire consumers to do their part to “crush the can” and seek the readily available marketplace alternatives.