Category Archive: Myths

Myth: Flint Is the Only U.S. City To Suffer a Tap Water Catastrophe

The toxic water in Flint, Michigan, might be the most well-known water catastrophe in the United States, but it is not the only one.  Newark, New Jersey, has been struggling through a lead contamination issue very similar to the one that took place in Flint. Many families in both cities still rely on bottled water because of the toxic pipelines.  While Flint and Newark are both catastrophes caused by lead pipes, that is not the only issue American towns are facing. Crumbling pipelines have also led to water pressure losses and contamination. The city of Jackson, Mississippi, went more than a month...

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Myth: Aluminum Cans Are Better for the Environment

Aluminum is quickly becoming a top trend in single-use packaging, but it isn’t any better for the environment than plastic. Aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, but the benefits stop there--assuming it is even recycled at all (cans are one of the most littered items in America, according to Keep America Beautiful). Aluminum production emits twice as much carbon dioxide as plastic production. The smelting process for aluminum also emits perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions that have a global warming potential 9,200 times that of carbon dioxide. Harvesting bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum, is a very dirty process. Bauxite is pulled from open-face...

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Myth: Solar Panels Are Environmentally Clean

Solar panels are often touted as the environmentally friendly alternative energy source, but they carry many hidden environmental harms. To start, the solar cells themselves require many rare earth minerals that must be harvested from dirty strip mines throughout the world to construct the photovoltaic cell itself and the massive batteries needed to store the power generated. After the solar cells are made, they must be placed in an area with unrestricted sunlight, occasionally leading to deforestation and the displacement of nearby wildlife. Solar cells do not last forever. When solar cells can no longer generate power, they become toxic trash....

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Myth: America’s Tap Water Is In Good Shape

The American tap water system is in shambles. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the American tap water system a “C-” grade in its annual infrastructure report card. The organization noted that one water main ruptures in the United States every two minutes resulting in more than 9,000 swimming pools worth of treated water being wasted.  When water mains rupture, pathogens such as E. coli can seep into the water prompting cities to issue boil water advisories. The water mains rupture because many of the pipes are very old. Some are still made from lead which can be toxic to...

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Myth: Glass Bottles Are Better for the Environment

Glass bottles are often touted as the environmental alternative to plastic, but they are not. Glass is an energy-intensive product to make. More fossil fuels are required to make a glass bottle than a plastic bottle or aluminum can. Those fossil fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Glass is also much heavier than plastic, leading to more carbon emissions during transportation. That is one reason many beverage companies have actually transitioned to recycled PET plastic rather than glass.  Glass is recyclable, but some municipal recycling programs don’t accept the material because small bits of broken glass cause problems for the...

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Myth: Nuclear Power Is Bad for the Environment

Nuclear energy generation is carbon neutral while also having enough power to run entire cities. The other fuel sources powerful enough to run cities today are fossil fuels like natural gas or coal -- both of which release carbon into the atmosphere.  There are other carbon-neutral energy sources, but none of them are efficient enough to power cities. Solar and wind power are highly inefficient and often cannot meet peak demand for a single home, let alone a city. Hydropower is much more efficient than other alternatives, but it is constrained to certain regions where rivers are accessible. It can’t work...

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Myth: Standard Filtered Water Pitchers Can Remove E. Coli

E. coli outbreaks in American tap water systems happen more often than you may think. Those concerned about their tap water supply often use a filtered water pitcher to remove any pathogens. While those filters can remove harmful metals such as lead, small bacteria like E. coli can surpass standard filters.  To remove E. coli from water, most cities recommend boiling the water for several minutes to kill any pathogens in the event that the tap water supply is contaminated. If boiling is not an option in the event of a power outage, alternative options such as bottled water will be...

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Myth: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Consists Mostly of Straws, Bottles, Bags, and Other Consumer Items

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of trash that is the size of Texas located off the coast of Hawaii, is often evoked when environmentalists discuss the need to reduce single-use plastic waste. But most of the patch is not small items like bottles, bags, or straws. According to National Geographic, the bulk of the garbage patch is abandoned fishing gear. These abandoned “ghost nets” can entangle animals and cause other harm to the ocean.  Some of the fishing gear in the garbage patch has been abandoned on purpose, but as much as 20 percent of the abandoned fishing...

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Myth: Pizza Boxes Cannot Be Recycled

There is a long-standing belief that pizza boxes cannot be recycled, but that is not true today in most municipalities. Most pizza boxes can be recycled just like any other box.  To recycle a pizza box, just make sure all of the slices, crust, and stuck-on cheese has been removed and place it in the bin.  It is true, however, that some other paper or box-like items cannot be recycled. Many adhesive papers, such as stickers, cannot be recycled because of the mixture of glue and paper. Similarly, carton boxes, such as juice or water boxes, are difficult to recycle because they...

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Myth: Boiling Water Can Remove Toxic Metals Like Lead

Almost every day, some Americans are notified that their home has been placed under a boil water advisory because their drinking water has been contaminated. This leads many to believe that boiling water is a catch-all solution to any water contamination. While boiling water can get rid of some of the harmful contaminants found in tap water, such as E. coli bacteria, it cannot get rid of metals like lead. In fact, it can make them more harmful.  When metals like lead or benzene are boiled, they can become airborne meaning that they can harm anyone in the vicinity of the...

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