|7 Deadly Sins: 7 Materials To Avoid
In the Church Of Green Living, some sins are more deadly than others.
sins like forgetting to recycle paper can be overlooked, unless you are
a newspaper publisher. But some are to be avoided at all costs. Hereís a
list of 7 substances that cause real problems in the environment, and
that we can avoid by taking a few simple steps in our lives.
- Polyvinyl Chloride, aka PVC, aka Vinyl aka #3 plastic. Weíve all got some vinyl
in our houses, on furniture clothing, plumbing pipes- itís the third
most common plastic. But it usually has bad stuff that can leach out of
it, like diethylhexyl phthalate,
which is banned in Europe, vinyl chloride and dioxins. The U.S. Green
Building Council states that the "risk of dioxin emissions puts PVC
consistently among the worst materials for human health impactsĒ. You
probably donít have to strip off your vinyl siding, but avoid toys
(including sex toys) with PVC. You donít want it in or near you or your
- Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam, aka #6 plastic. Polystyrene is not easily recycled
because of its light weight (especially if foamed) and its low scrap
value. Discarded polystyrene does not biodegrade for hundreds of years.
Commonly used in coffee cups and clamshells for food, it contains benzene,
a known carcinogen, and while the FDA claims it is safe, there are
studies concerning polystyrene containers used for food packaging which
find that styrene oligomers migrate into the food and may increase
thyroid hormone levels. Itís your call if you want your hot coffee or
entrťe served up in polystyrene. I avoid it.
Once commonly used in plumbing, gasoline and paints, lead is still used
in some building materials, batteries, bullets and other applications.
Lead is a poisonous substance to animals. It damages the nervous system and causes brain and blood disorders in mammals and is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates both in soft tissues and the bones. Lead poisoning has been documented from ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and ancient China.
Modern China, too, as it turns out, as products with lead paint have
been imported into the US. If you are in an old house- itĎs likely there
is lead appoint in there somewhere. Itís easily recycled, which is
good, because we on track to run out in 20-40 years. Find a substitute.
- Mercury. Used in thermometers and compact fluorescent (CFL) lamps, mercury
is great when itís contained. But coal burning, mostly for electricity,
pumps lots of mercury into the air, where it falls out in rain and ends
up in our fish. Itís one of the most toxic metals. You can avoid it by
carefully recycling your CFLs with LampTracker kits,
and turning off the lights and other power sources, so that we burn
less coal. 50% of US electricity comes from burning coal, so cutting
power use keeps mercury out of the environment.
- Nitrous Oxide, aka NOX. A major greenhouse gas and air pollutant, NOX
depletes the ozone layer (greater risk of skin cancer) as well as
warming the atmosphere. Again a lot of it comes from burning coal, where
scrubbers work to remove it. Less electricity, less coal, less NOX.
Turn off the lights.
- Sulfur Dioxide, aka SOX. Not the Red Sox (the good guys) but a very bad actor. Like NOX, a major pollutant and together with NOX, the main culprit in acid rain. You guessed it- itís the coal we burn. Coal is Satan. Use less electricity to kill coal.
- Carbon Dioxide, aka CO2. Unlike some of the substances above, CO2
is essential to life- plants breathe it in as they photosynthesize, and
give us oxygen in return. But right now, itís a case of too much of a
good thing. CO2 is the main greenhouse gas, and it traps heat from the
sun on the earthís surface, warming the climate. Burning coal, oil and
gas contribute most of the problem CO2, so reducing our driving,
electricity usage and fossil fuel burning helps keep it out of the
atmosphere. Planting trees and increasing green space helps suck up CO2,
and energy efficiency efforts reduce the amount we emit. Solar, Wind
and nuclear power systems emit none.
There you have it, penitents. Avoid these materials and weíll be on
our way back to the Garden of Eden, or at least a cleaner world for our
(« Go Back)