Canned air is often used in offices to clean dust from equipment such as computers and shredders. These products are often used without incident, but lack of training in the correct use can lead to flash fires and injuries, warns the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
Canned air differs from the new air we inhale and exhale. The products are constructed of a gas that is compressed into a liquid and canned. The types of gases used vary, plus some are dangerous when used improperly. A number of the more common dangers include:
Flammable substances. When canned gas is tilted, the liquified and highly flammable gas can be released in to the air and onto surfaces it gets in contact with. This is dangerous in terribly non-ventilated areas especially. Whenever a flammable atmosphere is established, flames, sparks and electrical switches can ignite the concentrated gas, triggering a flash fire.
Frostbite. The water inside canned air can cause frostbite when your skin is subjected to a steady stream. This can range from an intense burning discomfort to major physical injuries such as skin cracking, and damage to muscles, arteries and nerves.
Toxicity and asphyxiation. When high concentrations of some gases are released into a nonventilated area, oxygen deficiency and possible asphyxiation may occur. The consequences of inhalation differ with regards to the type of substance used, as well as the length of time and intensity of exposure.
Another important thing to note is that electric charges can build up on a moving object when certain liquids or gases get in contact with other materials. This can happen when gases are shaken, sprayed or flow through pipes. This build-up of electric charge is referred to as static electricity.
Even when the gases are transported or processed in non-conductive packing, slightly rubbing the outer surface of the container can cause buildup of static charge in the liquid. The amount of charge that develops depends in part on how much gas is in question and how rapidly it flows or is shaken or stirred.
For instance, the chemical components in a spray that actually kills insects—things like permethrin and imiprothrin—are not flammable. However a can of Raid also includes a substantial amount of highly flammable fluids like propane and butane.
These types of compressed gases, which make up about 40 percent of the spray, help to push the liquid insecticide off the can and into the air. If the air in a room contained precisely the right mixture of propellants and oxygen, an explosion may well occur.