We all want to do our little part to help the planet. Bring our own bags to the grocery store, buy organic products, recycle. But for those of us who want to go beyond those small acts – we would buy a hybrid car. Well, new information reveals that you may be doing more harm than good. Many of the hybrid cars on the market, Prius, Honda Insight and Ford Focus, all use a “rare earth” mineral known as Neodymium (or Nd). The Prius is the largest user of rare earth minerals of any object in the world.

Mineral doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, minerals are found in the ground, and how do we get things out of the ground? Mining. Remember off shore drilling? These mining practices are causing major environmental damage and leaking radioactive waste. China, the largest producer, is limiting how much it supplies because it is concerned about the damage it is causing, unlike the rest of the world.

Rare earth minerals are used in batteries of hybrid cars,  magnets in wind turbines and even in your smart phones and iPads. This mineral is in high demand which will cause producers to go dangerous lengths to find it. Japan claims that they found a rich source off the Hawaii coast.

Why should you be concerned? The radioactive leaking has reportedly increased cancer cases in the surrounding areas and exposure to Neodymium dust cannot only cause skin irritation but repeated exposure can cause respiratory problems including asthma and lung inflammation.

Yes, it’s another tricky environmental catch 22 – will we ever be able to get it right? We need to find a more environmentally friendly way to create these products, especially when they claim to help our planet. But the question remains: how?