Green isn’t always green?

Going “green” is a huge topic today. It seems there is always a new campaign promoting clean energy or biodegradable fuels; anything to help the environment. Ironically the face of this movement, literally the color green, may be doing its cause more harm than good.

This article from the The New York Times, The Toxic Side of Being, Literally, Green, reveals that “most forms of the color green, the most powerful symbol of sustainable design, aren’t ecologically responsible, and can be damaging to the environment.” Toxic substances are used to make most forms of the color green because it is so difficult to stabilize.

According to the article, the most common shade of green used for paper and plastics, Pigment Green 7, is made of chlorines that can cause cancer and birth defects. Another popular shade, Pigment Green 50, is a “noxious cocktail of cobalt, titanium, nickel and zinc oxide.”

The toxic history of green is even more surprising. Early green pigments were so corrosive they could burn through canvas and wood. Many historians believe that one of these called Scheele’s Green, invented in Sweden in the late 1700s, killed Napoleon when lethal arsenic fumes were released from his wallpaper.

Death by wallpaper? I think it’s safe to say Napoleon would have expected a much more heroic death.

by Ansley Prior

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