Materials

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If one way be better than another, that way you may be sure is Nature’s way.  Aristotle

Since early human times, people have looked to nature for the materials to protect and beautify their dwellings. They usually didn’t have to look far. Most of the things they needed were near at hand: clay, lime, ochers and oxides from the earth; oils and resins from plants and trees; milk protein from cows and beeswax from bees. For thousand of years, materials such as these performed marvelously in architectural masterpieces such as the Sistine Chapel, as well as all manner of dwellings.

Then along came the new technologies of petro-chemistry and the advent of modern “latex” paint. Latex paint can be thought of as liquefied plastic, and in a sense, when you paint with it you are surrounding yourself in a thin plastic film.   Gassing out of this film are various toxic solvents and chemical additives that you probably would rather probably rather not breathe.   But latex, or “petropaint,” comes with two other things most people are unaware of.

One is high embodied energy.   It takes a lot of energy to make a can of paint.   First there is the extraction, then shipped or pipelined to a refinery, where extreme heat is used to “crack” the raw crude.   There is also all the shipping of the wet product, which is heavy.   All that energy used means more carbon in the atmosphere, and nothing is more important right than reducing carbon emissions.

The other is animal testing.   Because of the toxic chemicals in latex paint, a lot of animal testing is done before products reach market. The LD (lethal dose) 50, in which mice are exposed to increasing concentrations of paint fumes until half the population dies, is common.  What purpose such cruelty could serve is beyond me, but is reason enough for me to avoid the use of latex as much as possible..

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