Natural Environment Blog

Blogging for the Natural Environment

Month: September 2009

The Environmental & Health Risks Posed by Paint

Research conducted by Norwich Union insurance (recently rebranded ‘Aviva’) indicates that over the past 25 years, asthma has increased six times in children and three to four times in adults.

Diet and pollution is thought to be the cause of asthma, and it might be alarming to realise that sometimes seemingly innocuous items like paint can actually be dangerous pollutants.

The Impact of Paint on our Health

Exposure to paint fumes can lead asthmatics to suffer effects from wheeziness to asthma attacks, but it’s not just asthmatics that can be affected by paint fumes.

Studies have shown that the volatile organic compound levels inside newly-painted buildings are a thousand times higher than outside. The World Health Organisation released a report stating that painters have a twenty percent higher risk of cancer and forty percent for lung cancer.

Even normal, long term exposure to paint can have a detrimental effect on ones health, Danish specialists have discovered a neurological condition which they have dubbed ‘painter’s dementia’. Paint fumes can be particularly bad for health when combined with other problems such as skin problems, allergic reactions or headaches.

Paint is something which is hard to avoid for anyone who enjoys electricity, lights and shelter, so what can we do?

The Solution

Fortunately, the demand for eco paint is starting to gain momentum, and the possibility of protecting your family against the potential health risks of conventional solvent paints. Eco-friendly paints are made from natural ingredients, containing the bare minimum of synthetic constituents, and often none at all. Environmentally-friendly paint can be composed of all sorts of different substances including by-products. These natural ingredient paints do not emit damaging fumes into your home, and some are completely bio-degradable.

Be kind to the planet, your family, and your home

Green paint is just as easy to work with as conventional paint you would find in any DIY store, and they also come in the same range of colours. There’s no reason why committing yourself to environmentally friendly interior design should you mean you are forced to compromise on the style and quality you desire.

Natural paint is not prohibitively expensive, in fact it is very competitive with mainstream paint products, so hopefully more people will realise that they don’t need to expose themselves and their loved ones to dangerous pollutants inside their own homes.

Thankfully science has told us that paint is contributing to our seemingly-deteriorating health, and now slowly the tables are turning as environmentally-sound paint becomes readily available on the market.

Adam Cairn writes on behalf of Gecco Interiors, who supply green paint and other eco products for a green home.

Electric Dreams

Electric cars pave the way to a greener future for the automotive industry. Here, we explain the technology that makes these cars possible and look at some of the first production models, which will shortly be coming onto the mainstream market.

More Than Meets The Eye

Although an electric car may look like your average family runabout from the outside, what lies underneath its bonnet is completely different to a typical fuel-burning engine. While a normal petrol- or diesel-engined car works on the principle of internal combustion, an electric car uses electric motors powered by battery packs. These motors are charged from a fixed electrical source such as a power point.

Electric Cars – Old Technology

Although electric-car technology has only started to become available to the masses in recent times, it is actually one of the oldest methods of propulsion. In the late 1800s, engineers began to experiment with the technology, but as it was harder and more time-consuming to develop than the combustion engine, it was pushed aside.

Within the last five years, however, electric-car technology has come back into favor, due to concerns over dwindling oil supplies and air pollution.

Indeed, major manufacturers such as GM, Nissan and Mitsubishi have invested billions into turning the electric car into a practical mass-transit solution, with the Mitsubishi iMieV, Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt being the best current examples of mainstream electric vehicles.

At the moment, the only practical option available to the eco-conscious car buyer is a hybrid like Toyota’s Prius or Honda’s Insight, but starting in 2010, the above-mentioned full-electric models will come on stream.

Variety Of Electric Cars

Mitsubishi’s iMiEV features a 64hp fully electric motor that can travel up to 100km on a full charge. This car is currently participating in a long-term trial organised jointly by the ESB and Mitsubishi to evaluate its practicality on the Irish road network.

Elsewhere, GM’s Chevrolet Volt does incorporate a petrol engine, but it is only used to charge the vehicle’s batteries if no power socket is available -– the car itself is propelled only by its electric motors.

GM Europe recently began a feasibility study that will analyse the recharging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles. Such infrastructure will need to be improved in order to eliminate the necessity for a petrol ‘back up’ as featured in the Volt.

As things stand, the Volt should appear in Europe under the Opel badge, but if GM sells Opel/Vauxhall (which seems likely) it will probably retain its Chevrolet badge.

Nissan’s LEAF electric car, meanwhile, is powered by compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate a power output of over 90kW, while its electric motor delivers 80kW. The spacious five-door car will go on sale in Europe, the US and Asia next year.

How Eco-Friendly Are Electric Cars?

Electric cars such as these models are clean, quiet and cheap to run, but it’s important to remember where most of the electricity that charges their batteries come from – coal-burning power stations!

Until such time as manufacturers can produce practical solar-powered electric cars, we’re afraid the electric car will still leave a carbon footprint, albeit a small one.

This post was contributed by CBG.ie.

Keep up to date with all the latest developments in green motoring technology, including a look at hybrid cars like Toyota’s Prius at http://www.cbg.ie/GreenCars.aspx

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