Our program featured Audra Frank and Rick Morrissey from the District 7430 Environmental Sustainability Committee. Audra is not a proverbial tree-hugging environmentalist, but she does have a personal perspective. She lost her husband to a brain tumor in 2003 which may have been caused by his inhaling paint and other fumes at the family paint store. Her renovation company switched entirely to zero VOC paints. VOC is an acronym that stands for volatile organic compounds. The Environmental Protection Agency describes them as "organic chemical compounds whose composition makes it possible for them to evaporate under normal indoor atmospheric conditions." Essentially, this means that VOCs are the invisible chemicals we smell when bringing paint products, building supplies, and even new furniture into our homes. The evaporation process is referred to as "off-gassing," and it can last well after the new paint smell is gone, potentially several years. Formaldehyde, d-Limonene, toluene, acetone, ethanol (and more) fall within this category. Exposure to these chemicals can be especially damaging to infants.
Generally speaking, human activity is not healthy for the environment. Even small behavioral changes can be met with great resistance. We have been fairly successful in getting people to accept recycling. The problem is, at least for plastics, very little waste is actually recycled. Several states, including New Jersey, have gone so far as to ban single-use plastic bags at stores. Some Pennsylvania stores are choosing to voluntarily adopt similar rules. Many people are opting to bring their own reusable bags when they shop. New types of light bulbs are much more efficient and last far longer. Other items such as coffee containers can be re-purposed instead of being discarded. Reusable washable towels can be used in place of paper towels. The big problem is traditional plastic which can take hundreds of years to break down.