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The first aerosol spray can patent was granted in Oslo in 1927 to Erik Rotheim, a Norwegian chemical engineer, and a United States patent was granted for the invention in 1931. The patent rights were sold to a United States company for 100,000 Norwegian kroner. The Norwegian Postal Service, Posten Norge, celebrated the invention by issuing a stamp in 1998.


In 1939, American Julian S. Kahn received a patent for a disposable spray can, but the product remained largely undeveloped. Kahn's idea was to mix cream and a propellant from two sources to make whipped cream at home — not a true aerosol in that sense. Moreover, in 1949, he disclaimed his first four claims, which were the foundation of his following patent claims. It was not until 1941 that the aerosol spray can was first put to good use by Americans Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan, who are credited as the inventors of the modern spray can. Their design of a refillable spray can dubbed the "bug bomb", is the ancestor of many popular commercial spray products. Pressurized by liquefied gas, which gave it propellant qualities, the small, portable can enabled soldiers to defend against malaria-carrying mosquitoes by spraying inside tents and airplanes in the Pacific during World War II. Goodhue and Sullivan received the first Erik Rotheim Gold Medal from the Federation of European Aerosol Associations on August 28, 1970, in Oslo, Norway in recognition of their early patents and subsequent pioneering work with aerosols. In 1948, three companies were granted licenses by the United States government to manufacture aerosols. Two of the three companies, Chase Products Company and Claire Manufacturing, still manufacture aerosols to this day. The "crimp-on valve", used to control the spray in low-pressure aerosols was developed in 1949 by Bronx machine shop proprietor Robert H. Abplanalp.


In 1974, Drs. Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina proposed that chlorofluorocarbons, used as propellants in aerosol sprays, contributed to the depletion of Earth's ozone layer. In response to this theory, the U.S. Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1977 authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the presence of CFCs in the atmosphere. The United Nations Environment Programme called for ozone layer research that same year, and, in 1981, authorized a global framework convention on ozone layer protection. In 1985, Joe Farman, Brian G. Gardiner, and Jon Shanklin published the first scientific paper detailing the hole in the ozone layer. That same year, the Vienna Convention was signed in response to the UN's authorization. Two years later, the Montreal Protocol, which regulated the production of CFCs was formally signed. It came into effect in 1989. The U.S. formally phased out CFCs in 1995.

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