Author Options:

Green isn't all that green after all Answered

While the color green has been the hue of choice for environmentalists and companies wishing to show that they care about nature, making a product green is actually toxic. Due to the difficulty of making a green dye and all the chemicals that are used, it contaminates anything it touches. So when a product is simply putting some green to make it look a little more nature-friendly, it's actually making things worse. Yay!

From the NY Times:
Take Pigment Green 7, the commonest shade of green used in plastics and paper. It is an organic pigment but contains chlorine, some forms of which can cause cancer and birth defects. Another popular shade, Pigment Green 36, includes potentially hazardous bromide atoms as well as chlorine; while inorganic Pigment Green 50 is a noxious cocktail of cobalt, titanium, nickel and zinc oxide.

The Toxic Side of Being, Literally, Green


 What does that mean for the neon-green relish on my Chicago dog?

I think it means you should switch to a nice chutney.

I recommend tomato chutney, aka ketchup.

Wondering whether to go to Instructables HQ or NYC if I go to America.




Where would you go if you didn't live in U.S.A.?


Really, anywhere is nice.........just have that knife. :P

That adds a third place into the equation.


I know we're all thinking it, so I might as well say it:  Water is also incredibly toxic and is an ingredient in almost all paints and dyes.  Overexposure to water can cause several adverse health effects such as weight gain, frequent urination, hypothermia, difficulty breathing, and even death! 

I don't suppose any of you guys remember the campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide?  Journalists take advantage of the fact that most people (except on this site) have never had a chemistry or statistics class.  People without that knowledge can be easily frightened by words like "toxic" or the name of just about any element or chemical compound.  Journalists are not bound by any regulation to tell the whole truth, just whatever parts of it they think will sell papers or get hits.


8 years ago

Yeah, and table salt also contains chlorine.  As kelseymh said, it really depends on whether the chlorine can get out and cause harm.

Now greenpeace is going to have to make their signs out of moss, LOL.

Ha!  As long as it's a locally occurring natural moss and not an invasive species of moss from somewhere else!

.  This just help prove that

Lol, that's great.


8 years ago

Now THATS irony for you!


8 years ago

If you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs, heheee

I think nature is fighting back, with all the pollen that's out lately it makes you think.

 As mentioned, any colour paint can be toxic, pretty much anything you can buy is toxic or environmentally detrimental in some way. This sort of journalism (particularly when associated with the photo here) is trying to be amusing and ironic, but is imho just stupid and counterproductive. 

It's like trying to argue that you should use paper cups, because they break down quicker than porcelain coffee cups. It's ludicrous and idiotic.

Props, NYTimes.

The article was talking about plastics and paper, not paint, and the irony of making something less green by making it the color green. Is pointing that out stupid and counterproductive?

 Well, yes. It detracts from more important issues. The colour that paper is dyed is so insignificant compared to, for example, the chemicals used to bleach the pulp to white, which are then dumped in the ocean. Sure it made some journo feel smug to point out the perceived irony, but I'm just growing tired of shoddy journo's and people ripping on insignificant pitfalls when there are far larger ones at stake.

And with a general decline in news-print more "Journos" are picking their copy off the internet...


So the pigments include toxic materials during the manufacturing process.  So does pretty much everything, unless you're chipping your very own stone knives and axes, and cutting green wood to make your own furniture.  And certainly don't wear clothes, since the detergents you use to clean them can be toxic to small mammals, birds, and fish!

A much more interesting question around these pigments is whether the heavy metals leach out of them (as the lead in lead paint can do), or whether they are sufficient bound chemically as to render them biologically inert.

The NY Times article does address the leaching of arsenic from ancient (18th Century) green wallpaper dye, but doesn't address the issue with current pigments.

So you're saying that by being a modern person in a modern world there's no point bothering to weigh the merits of different dyes or other items and their relative effects? Isn't that the same as saying that it doesn't matter what mileage your vehicle gets since they all pollute the air anyway?

The question about the heavy metals is much more interesting, it's true.

Ah, but the NY Times article wasn't "weighing the merits" -- it was tarring everything with the same brush of "ooh this is bad."  And you've gotten my point:  if you are going to label everything as bad, or toxic, or whatever, without any presentation of relative risk, then your conclusion certainly does follow.

Reductio ad absurdum, since the conclusion is faulty, the input assumption (lack of relative risk assessment) must be faulty.  So (speaking to the NY Times, not to you :-) give us better quantitative information on the relative risks and relative harm of these pigments compared to other things.

Sure, but for me the point of the article was that by dressing up a product in green colors (granted, relative damage compared to other colors unknown) it only makes things worse. In other words, it's a crass appeal to consumers desire to do good without actually trying to do good.

Well, yeah :-)  But isn't crass and hypocritical marketing just a given?

Oooh, sorry, I think my cynicism is showing...

However, chlorophyll is a permitted green food-colouring, yet contains no chlorine (the devivation of both being from chloros = green)... Plant-gree in what they need eh?
And with classic paints it doesn't matter which colour it is really.