EDIT:Thank you very much for all the answers, either by giving how to approach my coworkers which is something i really needed or with facts about canned air. Which is looks like i was overreacting. Right after that, my coworkers didn't use the canned air that saturday, and they stopped putting inside a drawer (causing to bow under). I don't understand why so many downvotes but I think that is just part of making a question. Thanks everyone.

ORIGINAL POST: i'm new here and i came here looking for some help/advice... its my first job and i don't know how to approach in a way that i don't regret later. Well, some context here.

I have had a problem with my co-workers. At this time we have had a good relationship besides the fact that I do not socialize too much with them. I rarely talk to them if it is not about work. To clarify, we are all just a few meters from each other. Each one looks towards the wall of the room (forming a U) and there are not many windows, at most there is one but there is no current of air. The problem is that every Saturday they "clean" their place of work, and part of that is using compressed air/canned air/canned duster to clean their keyboard ... which honestly seems to me an excess. The problem is that they use it imprudently, taking into account that it is a very toxic product that should not be used in a closed space.

They use it excessively (as if it were just "air") and, as such, I fear it affects my health. I asked my brother for advice and he told me I had to tell them it was toxic and if they did not pay attention to me, I would change jobs. That it's not worth working in a place that puts my health at risk.

EDIT: I already made a comment about that to them, but not all my colleagues were there and little after that they still are using it recklessly. I think that I could talk to them again and tell them that it is not necessary to use something like that for a keyboard, that they still use a wet cloth, but I am afraid of creating a conflict with them or that they simply ignore me and something happens to me in the future because Because I'm REALLY clumsy when it comes to a conversation.

EDITx2 The Cann does not specify his toxicity, but what it says that must not be used in closed spaces with poor ventilation. Which the office we are in only has 1 window opened and still there is not good ventilation.

I took a picture of the canned air. The brand is COMPUSOL and in the website (http://www.compusol.com.mx/) i have found nothing about security sheet or security at all. It says: https://i.stack.imgur.com/jSMxS.jpg

  • La inhalación de este producto puede causar la muerte. (Inhalation of this product can cause death.)
  • No voltée o invierta el bote, ya que puede causar la salida de gas liquido... (Do not turn over or invert the pot, as it may cause liquid gas to escape)
  • No usar en lugares cerrados o de poca ventilación. (Do not use in closed or poorly ventilated places.)

I'm trying to give all the detail possible, i don't know why the downvotes.

  • Find the document which states the proper usage of the cleaners and forward to your coworkers. Nobody wants to deliberately hurt their own health. – scaaahu Apr 14 '18 at 4:13
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    "The problem is that they use it imprudently, taking into account that it is a very toxic product that should not be used indoors" Are you sure about that? Most of the products I'm aware of have some suffocation hazard if directly inhaled, or can cause frostbite if sprayed on the skin at close range, but I'm not aware of any that are actually toxic. – Charles E. Grant Apr 14 '18 at 5:17
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    Take a picture of the can. It is extremely unlikely they are actually toxic. – Nelson Apr 14 '18 at 6:03
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    @Syntax_Error you're overreacting, IMHO. The MSDS for dimethyl ether (the ingredient listed) shows a very low danger for humans aside from flammability. The danger is when people inhale it directly from the can (putting the nozzle up to your nose). When you do this, the gas completely replaces oxygen in your lungs and that is when damage occurs. When used in a normal office with airflow/ventilation, you probably face fewer health risks than you do breathing the air walking on city streets. – alroc Apr 14 '18 at 15:16
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    Important to note from the MSDS: For a rat (slightly smaller than the average adult human), the threshold for "acute" danger to vapor exposure is 73,000 PPM for two hours. At that concentration, you'd see a cloud of the stuff hanging in the room (BTW, it's denser than air, so it'll be collecting at the floor - you aren't lying down in the office, are you?) and you'd have to stay in there for several hours at that level to see significant risk. They'd have to empty a few cases (not canisters) of it into an enclosed space. – alroc Apr 14 '18 at 15:22

I've scattered this in a few comments already but to get it all in one place:

The main ingredient in this product is dimethyl ether. According to the Materials Safety Data Sheet, the primary danger posed by this substance is flammability - it auto-ignites at a relatively low temperature (356°F) and shouldn't be left lying around in large amounts in liquid form.

Also from the MSDS, the median lethal concentration (LC50) for rats is 73,000ppm for two hours. You and your co-workers are slightly larger than rats (I'm excluding NYC sewer rats here). 73,000ppm means that you'd have so much of this gas in the air that a dense fog would be visible - but it would be collected around your ankles, because the gas is denser than air.

The primary risk from this product is direct inhalation but it's not even because of this gas itself - it's any gas you inhale that isn't air. It's like when teenagers used to do "whip hits" - they'd take whipped cream cans, put the nozzles up to their noses, and push just enough for the gas, but not whipped cream, to come out. The "high" came from the gas used in the whipped cream canisters as a propellant and the hypoxia - brief oxygen deprivation that makes you feel goofy. When you inhale the gas, it takes the place of air/oxygen in your lungs (and being denser than air, it'll push out quite a bit of residual air that's in your lungs) and you'll be physically breathing (diaphragm moving, gas passing in & out of your respiratory system) but not taking in the oxygen you need to live. Do that long enough, and you start suffering nerve/tissue damage, lose consciousness, and then ultimately - death.

But you're not inhaling the stuff directly from the can. You aren't dumping multiple pallets worth of these cans into a small, enclosed space with no ventilation or airflow. You are not facing a significant health risk here. You're more at risk walking down the street, breathing the air in a city with heavy air pollution issues.

Yeah, the stuff is a very mild skin & eye irritant if you come in direct contact with enough of it. But we're talking about liquid form here, and it washes right off.

They're wasting company money using so much of it. That's the worst that's really happening here.

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    Thank you for taking the time of clarify my concerns. I think that could be the reason why the downvotes but im glad that it is not so dangerous has i though at first. – Syntax_Error Apr 17 '18 at 13:57

If the cans are compressed air cleaners, they are not toxic! I do not see any H&S problem here.

However, doing research on the contents (shown on the label) of the canister (poisonous vs long term toxicity) would be beneficial.

See the National Safety Council's website for info on canned air dangers.

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    Hi. It dont says it toxic, but the warnings in the cann are not being followed. I update my original post with a image which says I took a picture of the canned air. It says: i.stack.imgur.com/jSMxS.jpg La inhalación de este producto puede causar la muerte. (Inhalation of this product can cause death.) No usar en lugares cerrados o de poca ventilación. (Do not use in closed or poorly ventilated places.) – Syntax_Error Apr 14 '18 at 14:46

The gas itself is odorless. What you're most likely smelling is the bittering agent added to the gas, to make sure no one abuses it by inhaling it directly from the can. Do not let the smell of that bittering agent confuse you. Once used, the gas itself will flow like slow-moving water and will pool to the floor of your workplace (even if the bittering agent doesn't).

You can test this out for yourself. Spray two or three cans of dust cleaner gas inside a small watertight wastebasket. Blow normal air into a balloon with your mouth. Place the balloon inside the garbage can. The balloon will fall and stop itself when it hits the gas just like it was floating on top of an invisible liquid. Try pushing it down with your hand. It's actually pretty cool.

And in that sense, the gas is not specifically toxic as Charles E. Grant pointed out, but if you were in a basement it could be harmful to rodents or pets (or toddlers) if they rest their head close enough to the floor (and assuming huge massive quantities of this stuff had been used over time).

And the harm caused would look more like mechanical suffocation since the gas itself wouldn't directly poison the body, its density would only displace the normal air that could reach the lungs. So it's the lack of oxygen that would poison the body and it's the lack of oxygen that would provoke those feelings of euphoria. It's the same kind of euphoria that some kids can get into when they're choking each other (potentially causing permanent brain and nerve damage to each other and possibly causing death).

But there too, you could try replicating the balloon experiment and drop the balloon on the floor of your workplace to see how much gas has collected on the floor. My guess is that the balloon will fall to the floor itself and that there won't be enough gas to make a difference.

The thing with this kind of gas, it behaves like a liquid. So unless you were in the basement, the very act of opening a door to the outside would make most of the gas flow to the outside.

That being said, even if you're not completely convinced, there is an alternative:

True "air dusters" using ordinary air are also available in the market. These typically have much shorter run times than a chemical duster, but are readily refillable. Both hand pump and electric compressor models have been marketed. The maximum pressure for an aerosol can is typically 10 bar (145 psi) at 20 C (68 F).[6] Therefore, a fully compressed air duster will exhaust air about 10 times the can volume. Recently electronic versions which only use air have become viable alternatives that are preferred by many large corporations due to the fact that they contain no hazardous chemicals, are safe for the environment, do not freeze and they cannot be abused by addicts looking to get high. The leading plug-in alternatives are made by DataVac and Airrow and the leading cordless alternative is made by Canless Air System.


But before you suggest that as an alternative. Do your homework. Find out how much your company has been spending on the old product. And calculate how much your company would have to spend on the new one.

In other words, be prepared to make an argument on costs. If your coworkers are really using vast quantities of dust cleaner, then it may prove cost effective to generate your own compressed air. Or if the cost is mostly equivalent, you could make the argument based on the fact that it's better for the environment not to use chemicals unless you really need to.

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    This is talking about dangers from sniffing not the use as cleaning – Neuromancer Apr 14 '18 at 12:01
  • Hi. Yes, it is being use for cleaning, but they use a lot which everyone ends sniffing it (each desk is very close to each other.). – Syntax_Error Apr 14 '18 at 15:00
  • @alroc, Perhaps, you're the one who didn't read what I originally wrote, because you've also repeated it almost word for word and yet you still downvoted my answer "Granted, it does say 'inhalant abuse', and inhaling that air inadvertently may not that be easy since it's denser than normal air, most of it will naturally fall to the floor as soon as it's used." – Stephan Branczyk Apr 14 '18 at 16:54
  • @Neuromancer, Yes, that's what I said. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 14 '18 at 17:18
  • Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse here, but toxic does have a specific meaning. This stuff is not toxic except at extreme doses, it is however a sufficant, much like helium, CO2, or nitrogen. Sniffing may not be quite the right adjective here. Abusers typically spray it into a bag or balloon and breathe from the bag until they are on the edge of passing out. Accidental suffocation from this stuff is highly unlikely. – Charles E. Grant Apr 14 '18 at 23:22

Since this is for workplace advice and not toxicological advice, I'm not going to get into the debate about whether the canned air use is harmful or not - that's something for you to research yourself and discuss with your coworkers. The question originally expressed concern about how to bring up the subject with coworkers without creating conflict so this is the focus of my answer.

A few examples of how you could bring this up with colleagues:

"Hey, aren't you worried about using so much compressed air? The ventilation in here is so poor."

"I noticed you guys use a lot of compressed air - I have read that it is quite toxic and I'm concerned about using so much indoors since we have really poor ventilation in here. What do you think?"

Have evidence ready (e.g. the can of air with warning labels) to show them if they have little knowledge of the product. Suggest alternatives. Think of alternatives that give other advantages (e.g. cheaper). Come to a compromise (e.g. using less, using near window, using at end of the day so you aren't around).

If you still can't reach an agreement that you are happy with, you can go to your boss:

"Is there anything we could do to improve the ventilation in the office? I think it would make work a lot more comfortable for everyone, plus I am concerned about people using chemicals like compressed air in an office with poor ventilation - it may be a health and safety issue. If not, can we try to avoid using air pollutants like compressed air? I have spoken to them about it but we can't reach an agreement."

Again, if you can suggest a solution or compromise then that will help. Don't be afraid to raise your concerns - the fact that you are afraid of starting conflict probably suggests that you won't say anything that could start a conflict. Conversation just takes practice so give it a go and learn from the experience.

  • so much compressed air lol its a tiny can. Have you actually worked in a place that uses piped compressed air to run hand tools? – Neuromancer Apr 14 '18 at 12:05
  • Hi. @Neuromancer Just to give more context, it not a tiny can. It is 7cm*7cm*30cm.its labeled COMPUSOL. – Syntax_Error Apr 14 '18 at 14:50
  • @Neuromancer I don't have an opinion on compressed air, I was just going from OP's perspective. My answer was aiming to give strategies for bringing up concerns in the workplace. – k-- Apr 15 '18 at 14:27
  • @k-- Thank you for taking the time to answer, i can only choose one answer but yours help me in the other "side" of my concern, which is the talking it to my coworkers. I'm glad that i dont have to worry that much with the facts about that canned air. Either way thank you, I upvoted you but it seems that my downvotes don't let me give some rep. So i thank you for this means of contact. – Syntax_Error Apr 17 '18 at 14:00
  • @Syntax_Error thanks I appreciate it! I'm glad you found it helpful and also glad you don't have to worry about it now :-) I've found it hard to confront coworkers in the past so I can relate – k-- Apr 18 '18 at 12:51

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