any gas, liquid, or solid the expansion of which can be used to impart motion to another substance or object. In aerosol dispensers, compressed gases such as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and many halogenated hydrocarbons are used as propellants. The propellant may remain in gaseous form (nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide), or it may liquefy under pressure. Food products, such as artificial whipped cream, are propelled by nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide; nonfood products, such as cosmetics, insecticides, paints, and pharmaceuticals, formerly were dispensed with the aid of fluorinated hydrocarbons. Because of the threat believed to be posed to the Earth's ozone layer by halogenated propellants, they have been banned in many countries except for essential uses such as some drugs, pesticides, lubricants, and cleaners for electrical or electronic equipment. (See also aerosol container.)
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