Skip to main content.
Enviropaedia Sponsors and Supporters


( Article Type: Explanation )

The word ‘aerosol’ describes the dispersion, through the air, of minute solid or liquid particles that are so light that they fall to the earth very slowly. The most common natural aerosols in the atmosphere are haze and cloud. However, in everyday use, ‘aerosol’ describes a pressurised spray can containing a propellant. When forced from a spray can, aerosols have more movement horizontally and can be directed easily at someone or something. At one stage, the most common pressurised propellants in aerosol cans were CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) gases because of their chemical ‘unreactiveness’ to the product they sprayed. However, due to environmental problems with CFCs, no aerosol spray cans have used CFCs as a propellant (with the exception of a small number of specialist medical uses such as asthma pumps) in South Africa since 1992. Aerosol sprays can also be created using pump action bottles, which can be refilled. These do not need gas propellants such as butane (which is not an ozonedepleting gas but is a ‘greenhouse gas’). The most common example of these is ladies, perfume spray bottles. Pressurised aerosol cans can, and should, be recycled.