Breathing and My CFC Albuterol Inhaler

If you thought giving up turbo Aqua Net in 1979 was a dark day in American history, have I got something to tell you that is almost equally disturbing! The Clean Air Act is back, and this time it’s not just going after big, gale-force wind withstanding hair, but after that breathing challenged subset, the asthmatics. Ah, the irony.Which totally begs the question, who is Clean Air and its Act for, if not for people who cannot breathe?

But apparently, metered dose albuterol inhalers propelled with CFCs (chloroflourocarbons) will no longer be available after December 31. The two things I will turn around the car to go home and retrieve if they’ve been forgotten are a child and albuterol propelled with CFCs.

We asthma homies and our docs know these things as “Rescue Inhalers.” I don’t use mine often, but let’s just say that when I do, I need it. I’m no medical professional, but the jargon-obsessed scientist in me says, “What a minute. Isn’t delivery method one of the most important considerations in medication efficacy, particularly in a potentially life threatening disease?”

Regarding the new HFA (hydrofluoroalkane) propelled inhalers, the FDA website states: “Many products that do not use chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) are already available for the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These products aren’t necessarily “official” direct alternatives to CFC Metered Dose Inhalers but MAY in many patients serve as a useful medication that COULD replace the need for a particular CFC Metered Dose Inhaler.” (CAPS, mine)

Consider me not reassured. Sounds like possible legal shirking.

Yesterday, my nice nurse friend, Lisa, at my allergist’s office told me not to worry – They haven’t had any problems with the replacement albuterol products thus far. And I’m trusting that she’s right. But as a lifelong asthmatic, I know this disease to be as finicky and unpredictable as a rabid cat. One minute you can be telling yourself how you feel so healthy recently that you want to hike the entire Appalachian Trail on your next vacation, and the next, you’re reaching for that CFC propelled rescue inhaler and headed to the ER. (General example – I have zero desire to hike even part of the Appalachian Trial.)

The FDA site goes on to say: “HFA-propelled albuterol inhalers may taste and feel different than the CFC-propelled albuterol inhalers. The spray of an HFA-propelled albuterol inhaler may feel softer than that of a CFC-propelled albuterol inhaler”.

Hear finicky cat hiss and wheeze.

Warning! I momentarily have need to sound defensive: My wonder years were in the groovy 70s which were sandwiched between the 60s and 80s, decades known for high hairspray usage. I gave up hairspray back when the Clean Air Act began in the 70s, because I’d never worn it to begin with. I was practically giddy about switching to solid deodorant.

Flash forward 30 years: I recycle. I love planet earth. I love Clean Air! I buy organic food from local farmers! I’m neither an environmental activist, nor a slash-and-burn the rain forest kind of gal. But we’re talking about 3 inch inhalers. The puff has got to be around 10 times shorter and smaller than that made by the most offending wielder of Aqua Net.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers what a travesty the lame replacements for non-aerosol hairsprays and deodorants were. Even the aerosol items, propelled with a new laboratory of chemicals were inferior. Breaking and clogging were more typical than not. A fine mist perfectly propelled was history.

Finally, these new inhalers with the “new” albuterol will cost the consumer more. Apparently, this accessible, reasonably priced pharmaceutical will no longer be available in generic form because of a small formulaic change. Even though the only thing that has really changed is the delivery method?

I’ll believe in it, after I breathe in it.

Relevant Notes:

For some clinical data read this:

(I couldn’t get past the title. A quick scan gave me the feeling it’s trying to tell me everything will be okay, just like my friend, Nurse Lisa)

Clinical Comparability of Ventolin Formulated
With Hydrofluoroalkane or Conventional
Chlorofluorocarbon Propellants in Children
With Asthma

Aqua Net is still widely available and used on rock hard, slightly more eco-bouffants everywhere. Since banning CFC’s, butane or propane are used as propellants according to Everything2. Aqua Net is still 70% methyl alcohol. In other words, avoid breathing this stuff.

Not really relevant link: Most Amusing Aqua Net related product: Aquanet Hairspray Diversion Safe

Somewhat relevant cartoon:

***ADDED 12/26/08:
Really Relevant Note:
Please visit The National Campaign to Save CFC Inhalers for more information and what you can do to oppose the ban on CFC inhalers.


  1. clmpolly says

    Thousands of patients KNOW that HFA inhalers are not as safe and effective as CFC inhalers. While most patients may be able to handle HFA inhalers (or MDIs), many can’t tolerate them, and are finding them terribly ineffective. Even MDs, PhDs, RNs etc., are seeing the differences.
    I cannot tolerate the HFA inhaler and it actually made my asthma worse. I fear that others who have been switched to HFA propelled inhalers are having increased asthma symptoms, and may not even realize that it may be because of the re-formulated inhaler.
    I want to help spread the word that many people are finding these new inhalers seriously inferior. There is a petition that I’d like to make asthma patients and those who care about them, or care for them, aware of. If you could help by spreading the word in your asthma community, that would be wonderful.
    To get the FACTS and help us FIGHT to save CFC MDIs:
    Go here:
    Or here:
    Or just Google: ‘save cfc’
    Cheri Modrow The National Campaign to Save CFC Asthma Inhalers

  2. The Lonely Conservative says

    My mom has COPD and she depends on her rescue inhaler. My husband’s seasonal allergies are so bad in the spring that without his inhaler he’d wind up in the ER. This new law scares me, I’m very concerned for my loved ones so I signed the petition. The research I’ve done indicates that these new inhalers are not suitable replacements. Good luck to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *