Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans are generally found at UVM food service kitchens. They are also used for maintenance activities within Physical Plant. Aerosols are used for a wide variety of materials such as non-stick cooking sprays ("pan release"), oven cleaners, spray paints, degreasers, adhesives, cooling agents and even pesticides.


Aerosols are a compressed gas. There are four potential sources of health hazard in regards to aerosol products:  Solvent Content, Propellant, Active Ingredient and the Nature of Aerosol Sprays in general.

Most industrial aerosols contain organic solvents which give off vapors that are dangerous if breathed for too long or in too high concentrations.  Some compressed-gas use flammable gas as a propellant. These are labeled “Flammable” and are regulated as ignitable waste under Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). The most common propellant, butane is extremely flammable. The once-used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have now been withdrawn from use in aerosols because of the damage they cause to the earth's ozone layer.

The active ingredient of an aerosol product will vary according to the material involved. It is important to read the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to identify the active ingredient and any hazards that may arise from its use.

Constituents such as adhesives, cleaning agents, static eliminators etc., may all contribute to the overall hazard of the product, as they will be deposited on internal surfaces of the nose, throat, lungs or stomach.

The nature of the aerosol spray itself is that the spray will often consist of very small droplets of solvent, propellant and active ingredient, some of which can do damage by inhaling them deep into the lungs. Larger droplets will be trapped in the nose, throat and upper part of the lung. Aerosol sprays can also cause irritation, if they comes into contact with the eyes.

Aerosols should always be used in a well ventilated area.

Disposal at UVM

Aerosol cans are separated at all food service kitchen on UVM's campus. Physical Plant staff store used aerosols in a secure area prior to pickup. Aerosols are collected by Environmental Safety staff as hazardous waste. They are then transported to the campus Environmental Safety Facility, and punctured with a special tool to remove any additional liquid remaining inside the can. The liquid is consolidated with other flammable liquids into a 55-gallon drum for safe disposal.

Final Destination

The flammable liquid waste is sent to an out-of-state end disposal facility for incineration. The empty and punctured metal cans are recycled as scrap metal.

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