Many conversations center on increasing the availability and convenience of biofuel and electric-powered vehicles to reduce our dependence on conventional fossil fuel. Yet another way families can become involved in this initiative is to decrease their usage of other petroleum-based products at home.
During the 20th century, using petroleum-based derivatives in products gained popularity for a number of reasons. The chemical composition provides a number of benefits from increasing viscosity to acting as a preservative. Besides, with a growing demand for gasoline as the interstate network of highways was built, the leftover materials used to make these derivatives were plentiful and inexpensive.
Now that consumers are more aware of the impact of petroleum—whether manufacturing it, using it on or in the human body or disposing of it—many of us are taking a hard look at the contents of the products we use every day. Here are a few examples:
- Toothpaste. Yes, the stuff you put directly into your mouth commonly contains poloxamer 407—a petroleum derivative that helps the paste dissolve in water. Some formulas include saccharin, a petroleum-based sugar substitute linked to cancer in a number of clinical studies in the 1970s. Luckily for your teeth, there are now many petroleum-free toothpaste selections for you to choose from.
- Polyester fabric. While natural fabric like wool and cotton are biodegradable, polyester is a synthetic fabric made of petroleum fiber. Because of its low cost, this fabric is used in approximately 60% of clothing worldwide. However, no matter how badly you want the evidence to disappear, that fabulous 60’s polyester disco pantsuit will never decompose in a landfill.
- Paraffin wax. This utilitarian material has been used throughout time as a sealant for canning preservatives, a protective layer over cheese, an ingredient in chicken nuggets to prevent foaming, as an ingredient in many cosmetics such as lipstick, and many other miscellaneous uses. Paraffin wax is sometimes called “petroleum wax” because it is derived from petroleum, coal, or shale oil. All of these uses are approved under the FDA, but it is up to you to decide if it’s the right choice for your family.
- Paint. This item is rather obvious because it’s even labeled as “oil-based paint.” Oil-based paint has traditionally been used in high traffic areas due to its resiliency, such as for kitchen or bathroom cabinetry. Today, there are many acrylic options that can do the job just as well.
The U.S. Department of Energy created an educational poster to promote our reliance on oil and natural gas. On it, they list nearly 150 “Common Products Made From Oil and Natural Gas.” Many of them may surprise you.
Want to learn more about how you and your family can contribute to our clean cities initiatives?
Come visit us at www.roguevalleycleancities.org. Together, we can keep our communities clean for generations to come! The Rogue Valley Clean Cities’ mission is to promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!