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Global emissions of VOCs from compressed aerosol products

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JournalElementa: Science of the Anthropocene
DateAccepted/In press - 15 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish


Disposable compressed gas aerosols have been a ubiquitous part of life since the mid-1950s. The signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987 led to aerosol propellants changing from halocarbons to less damaging replacements; around 93% of current aerosol emissions by mass are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with small contributions from compressed air (6.6%) and fluorocarbons (0.4%). The global consumption of aerosol units has increased significantly since the signing of the Montreal Protocol, increasing by an order of magnitude in some countries. In high-income countries, annual consumption increased through the 1990s and 2000s, typically reaching a plateau of ~10  3 units person-1 yr-1, dependant on product preferences. The largest contributors of both units and mass emissions are personal care products (PCPs). Consumption of aerosols in lower- and upper-middle income countries are growing rapidly e.g., Brazil, Mexico, China, Thailand, all tripling reported consumption since 2006. Based on evidence drawn from national production estimates, product specifications and formulations, and interpolation of usage between countries of similar economic status, we estimate global emissions of VOC from aerosol propellants were ~ 1.3  0.23 Tg yr-1 in 2018. The fraction of anthropogenic VOC emissions accounted for by aerosols has in some countries increased significantly as emissions from vehicles and fuels have declined. For example, in the UK, 6.1% of all VOC emissions were from aerosols in 2017, more than was released from gasoline passenger cars. Should low- and middle-income economies grow consumption per capita in line with recent trends, then we project global aerosol consumption may reach ~ 4.4  0.96 x 1010 units yr-1 in 2050. Should existing national and international policies on aerosol product formulation remain unchanged, and VOCs remain the dominant propellant, compressed aerosols could account for a global emission of ~ 2.2  0.48 Tg yr-1 in 2050.

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