The harmful effects of aerosol paint

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The harmful effects of aerosol paint
Aerosol paint, or spray paint, can be harmful for the atmosphere and for human beings. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Aerosol paint, more commonly known as spray paint, is a liquid paint that is packaged in an aerosol can with a nozzle for spraying. Spray paint is commonly associated with graffiti, but can be used on a multitude of surfaces and for a variety of purposes. While the use of a spray paint has benefits in terms of convenience, aerosol paint has several harmful effects that the consumer should consider before use.

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How It Works

The aerosol cans in which spray paint is packaged use pressurised, or liquefied, gas. The paint comes out in an even stream applying the paint to the area where it is aimed. Most spray paints contain a small metal ball inside the can to mix the paint before spraying.

Environmental Hazards

Paint is made of four basic components: solvents, binders, pigments and additives. Aerosol paint also contains a propellant made from hydrofluorocarbons and hydrocarbons. Aerosol paint propellants were made from just hydrocarbons until it was determined that hydrocarbons are a contributing factor to smog. The amount of hydrocarbons that can be used is now limited, but there is still a risk associated with using the paint. In addition to the presence of hydrocarbons, spray paint is solvent-based. Any solvent-based paint poses some risk to the environment.

Fire Hazards

If not stored properly, aerosol paints have the potential to cause fires. All aerosol products, including paint, pose a fire hazard. Aerosol products are divided into three categories based on how much flammable material they contain. Aerosol paints fall into the level three category, which poses the highest risk. All aerosol cans are extremely flammable. If fire comes into contact with an aerosol paint can, the container becomes over-pressurised and releases flammable contents. This can produce balls of fire, and even missile-like flames.

Abuse of Inhalants

One danger of aerosol paint is the potential for abuse by individuals who use them as a means to get high. This is a dangerous, potentially deadly practice called "huffing." Abusers of inhalants often inhale the chemicals directly into the mouth, but some abuse the products by soaking a rag with the chemicals and inhaling the fumes. The abuse of inhalants can cause damage to the kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and brain. Death can occur within minutes of inhalation and can happen during a user's first attempt.

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