In 1989, the European aerosol industry voluntarily stopped the use of CFCs (ChloroFluoroCarbons). These first generation fluorinated gases were ideal propellants for aerosol products due to their vapour pressure, non-toxicity and non-flammability. However, CFCs deplete the stratospheric ozone layer and are powerful greenhouse gases. As a result of its policy, the aerosol industry no longer contributes to the creation of the so-called ‘ozone hole’. Additionally the aerosol industry has decreased its greenhouse impact related to Climate Change by 99% compared to the period prior to 1989.
Today, the European aerosol industry has primarily shifted to flammable liquefied propellants (hydrocarbons and dimethyl ether) but still uses HFCs (HydroFluoroCarbons). These third generation fluorinated gases are less hazardous but remain greenhouse gases.
Currently, the only widely available liquefied propellant today which is non-flammable is HFC-134a (no other non-flammable liquefied propellant is currently widely available).
In 2002, FEA instituted a Code of Practice on HFC Use in Aerosols which voluntarily restricts the use of HFCs where there are no other [safe, practical, economic or environmentally] acceptable alternatives. The code also includes the latest results of the FEA voluntary scheme to annually monitor HFCs use in production.
In 2009, HFCs emissions from all sources accounted for 1.8 % of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions; an increase of 157 % between 1990 and 2009 (Source: EEA).
In contrast, based on the FEA voluntary survey (which does not include PU foams and pharmaceutical aerosols), the total consumption of HFCs for aerosols has decreased by 34% between 2002 and 2009 and represents less than 0.1% of total EU-27 greenhouse gas emissions in 2009.
A fourth generation of fluorinated products with lower GWP is emerging, the HydroFluoroOlefins (HFO).
To provide a suitable propellant for the aerosol industry, this new generation must:
- have a low GWP
- be a liquefied gas with an adequate vapour pressure
- allow formulation of non flammable aerosols
- be safe for health (suitable toxicological profile)
- be widely commercially available
From research programmes, one fluorinated substance has emerged: the HFO-1234ze.