Green your life at home, work & play

Myths vs. Facts of Going Green – Part 2 of 2 April 28, 2010

Here is a continuation – there are more, but these are a few of the more commonly asked questions.

Myth: A couple of degrees one way or not make any difference.

Fact: Properly using a programmable thermostat in your home is one of the easiest ways you can save energy, money, and help fight global warming!  The thermostat makes it easy by offering four pre-programmed settings to regulate your home’s temperature in both summer and winter — even when you are asleep or away.

56% of the energy use in the average home is for heating and cooling, and adjusting your thermostat (lower in the winter and higher in the summer) is a quick and easy way to save energy and money in your home and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the US Department of Energy, you can shave about 1% off your energy bill per degree change over an 8-hour period. So, if you decrease your home thermostat 10 degrees while at work, you can save up to 10% off your monthly heating bills.*

Source: Harvard University Office for Sustainability and ENERGY STAR calculators

Myth: Teflon is safe to cook with.

Fact: No, not really.  Tests have concluded that:

  • In 2 – 5 minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles/gases linked to possibly thousands of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year.
  • Dupont studies show that the Teflon begins off-gasing toxic particulates at 446°F
    • At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses.
    • At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stovetop drip pans (1000°F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.
    • For the past fifty years, DuPont has claimed that their Teflon coatings do not emit hazardous chemicals through normal use. Recently though, they have taken a step back from their safety assurance.
    • In cases of “Teflon toxicosis,” as the bird poisonings are called, the lungs of exposed birds hemorrhage and fill with fluid, leading to suffocation. DuPont acknowledges that the fumes can also sicken people, a condition called “polymer fume fever.”
  • Replace all Teflon non-stick cookware, especially old cookware!

Myth: The government has checked all chemicals used in industry.

Fact: We often assume that if a product is sold on the open market, it must be safe.  This is far from always being the case because scientifically analyzing each material requires considerable time and money, which the government doesn’t have.  In the meantime, potentially harmful products remain on store shelves and find their way into our homes.

  • US EPA – Chemicals of Concern List/Action Plans under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in December 2009.
    • Could prompt restrictions on 4 types of synthetic chemicals used widely in manufacturing and consumer products
      • includes phthalates used to make flexible plastics, often for toys, household products and medical equipment
    • Compounds covered in the action plans
      • polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), long-chain perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs)—phthalates and PBDEs will be listed as “chemicals of concern.” The PFCs and paraffins will be addressed under other TSCA provisions that could also result in restrictions.
    • These four types of chemicals, the EPA said, raise “serious environmental or health concerns” and in some cases “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.”
    • This is a big deal because it is the first time since TSCA was passed in 1976 that the EPA has made such a move.


2 Responses to “Myths vs. Facts of Going Green – Part 2 of 2”

  1. Wow, did not know that fact about teflon! Thanks for the info on that. Also, everyone should buy a programmable thermostat. This is one of the easiest ways to a green building and to saving money.

  2. Theresa Says:

    The TSCA was a good start, but it definitely needs revamping. Unfortunately, efforts to pass bills to strengthen it haven’t yet been successful.

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