Solvent-based aerosol cleaners are common in many automotive workplaces—so common that workers forget how dangerous they can be. Health problems resulting from these aerosols can result before workers realize what is happening. Workers can use these products safely if they know the contents and what steps to take to protect against harmful or dangerous exposures.

Solvent Uses

Solvent-based aerosol cleaners are frequently used as brake cleaners, carburetor or fuel injection air intake cleaners, engine degreasers, and for general purpose degreasers. The solvents in aerosol cleaners can enter the body when workers breathe vapors or droplets of spray in the air. Some solvents can also enter the body when they touch the skin.

Health problems depend on:

  • The type of solvents in the aerosol.
  • The amount (the concentration) of solvent in the air and how long the workers are exposed, which determines how much enters the body.

Repeated or frequent exposure to solvents in aerosol cleaners over months or years can have long-lasting and possibly permanent effects on the nervous system. The effects can range from mild respiratory irritation to severe damage to body organs and systems. In extreme cases, overexposure to solvent vapors can cause respiratory failure and death. In addition to the health hazards, many solvent vapors are flammable and explosive.

Optimize the safety of workers in automotive repair environments by:

  • Knowing the solvents you are working with.
  • Reading the product labels and the safety data sheets (a list of the hazards, health effects, and safe handling procedures).
  • Properly ventilating the workspace.
  • Using recommended gloves, eye and face protection, boots, other protective clothing, or barrier creams, as required.
  • If respiratory equipment is used, make sure it gives appropriate protection for the exposure.
  • Never washing your hands with solvents.
  • Prohibiting welding, cutting, soldering, and other sources of ignition in areas where solvent-based aerosols are used.
  • Storing flammable aerosol cleaners inside flammable storage cabinets and well-ventilated areas constructed for fire-resistant materials.
  • Installing readily accessible fire extinguishers in storage and work areas.

The best hazard control is substituting toxic solvents with safer, water-based aerosol cleaning product or a less toxic solvent.

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The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.

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