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Death by Plastic

We are all being poisoned.  Poisoned in silence by our chronic exposure to plastic. Yet very little is being done to prohibit its invasive presence that permeates into every crevice of our lifestyles.

While it is easy to assume one could simply eliminate exposure by not buying plastics, it isn’t always that simple. Certainly reducing purchases or use of disposable items is necessary in minimizing waste and health risks. However, where and how we encounter plastics is often out our immediate control.

Take water for example. We can avoid drinking water from disposable plastic bottles – and we would be smart to do so, as harmful compounds can leach directly from the plastic bottle into the water. But we’d most likely continue to get our water supply from pipes containing PVC and other plastics. Unless we installed a well, that is, but that brings into play challenges of its own.

Other plastic encounters are less obvious, as it is slipped into materials and items that the average person may not suspect. Items that many of us have become dependent upon, including contact lenses and retainers, fit the bill. It would almost seem as though plastic were inescapable. In 2002, the ratio of plastic to phytoplankton in the Pacific Ocean was 10:1. A quick jump from the already alarming 6:1 plastic to phytoplankton ratio just three years prior in 1999.

Obviously plastic isn’t the only material that is allowed to slide without the proper regulation. Many toxic pesticides, food additives, and pharmaceuticals are still being churned out and used by millions of people with little thought of the risks they pose. One of the problems, perhaps the main problem, is the capitalist ideology that impairs the capability of participating parties to make rational decisions. Lest without a not-so-hidden agenda to make more money. So, while harmful toxins may be regulated in their solitary form, products containing them are freely distributed because they are profitable.

Even if we all stopped using plastic tomorrow (if only it were so), there is enough buried plastic in the U.S. to fill over 700 Olympian swimming pools. All of this plastic contaminates the soil, often in high concentrations. This brings us back to water supply concerns, as landfills continue to contaminate nearby groundwater.

It is baffling that we should continue to use plastic at all (capitalism-induced insanity aside). It is also somewhat ironic that what began as plastic’s virtue, the indestructible, everlasting life it would lead, has been one of the main downfalls of the relationship between “consumers” and the environment.

We have to ask ourselves, “why do we use materials, which are meant to last centuries, to make products that are meant to last five minutes?” Let alone taking into account the effect of its toxins when released. When plastic is burnt, for instance, the smoke releases toxic particles. Exposure to these particles have been known to cause cancer, as with many volatile organic compounds. Yet children are allowed to suffocate in a room full of plastic toys as they off-gas.


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