Our Addiction to Plastic

by Paul Goettlich 10 April 2023

Any person or organization, whether nonprofit or profit corporation believing that plastic can be avoided or that it can be recycled or kept out of oceans is utterly delirious. Unfortunately, if plastic is made, it will go everywhere. It has done so and will continue to do so as long as it is produced. If there is a place where it seems to have missed, that’s only because nobody looked there for it and then published their findings.

A few years ago, a popular psychologist explained to me that people cannot be addicted to plastics as they contain no addictive substances like drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. His explanation is far too restrictive a definition which I disagreed with at that time. But, let’s follow an official description of ‘addiction’.

According to Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), addiction is defined as one not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you. It’s is most commonly associated with gambling, drugs, alcohol and smoking, but it’s possible to be addicted to just about anything, including: work, internet, solvents and shopping.

Still, normal plastic use is psychologically addictive. The reasoning follows that if we know something [plastic] is harmful to all life (including humans) on Earth, why would we continue with it unless we are addicted?

But I paused at the point of realizing that addiction requires physical and/or mental effects. We may strongly desire, even believe we need it. But plastic material itself does not normally in itself affect physical or mental changes via any chemical under normal circumstances. I repeat ‘normally’. But the intended uses of some plastics such as video games or sex toys could easily fit such descriptions. Computers are known to off-gas toxic fumes at operating temperatures. Shops that sell digital media discs — CDs, DVDs — always have a strong, unhealthy, acrid odour in them from the plastic, glues and additives. The electronic areas of large hardware stores have a similar string acrid odour. Newly carpeted offices will always wreak of those chemicals. Many people are severely affected by the off-gassing synthetic chemicals. In fact, so much so that they must seek new employment or just quit and hope for disability insurance payments to tide them over.

According to WHO, in 2022, asthma was the most common chronic disease among children and affected an estimated 262 million people in 2019 and caused 455,000 deaths. There are many contributing factors of which fumes from synthetic chemicals indoors are a sizeable portion. Fragrances are mostly synthetic and there’s a large increase in people affected by them. Laundry detergents, soaps, creams, air fresheners, perfumes can restrict the airways to our lungs, leading to asthma, COPD and worse. I mention these things because there is a close relationship between plastics and the other products created from synthetic chemicals sourced from fossil fuels.

But finally, “Being addicted to something means that not having it causes withdrawal symptoms, or a “come down”. Also missing from normal use of plastics is that “if an addiction gets out of control because you need more and more to satisfy a craving and achieve the ‘high’.” – source: NHS website Addiction: what is it?

As for plastics not being addictive, it might work for psychologists, but not in real life. With standard addictive products — drugs, tobacco, and alcohol — most users realize the harm they can cause, yet continue as if they are different, stronger, or able to quit before harm sets in. Knowingly or not, they become addicted. The addiction and harm come to the ignorant, as well as the informed. The initial joys of light-headedness and euphoria flow into hallucinations and blackouts. And by then they’re unable to stop – addicted – and the coughing, shakes and stumbling begins.

We don’t feel such effects from normal uses of plastic. Touching, drinking from and sitting on them doesn’t get as high. We generally only clean our teeth with a toothbrush daubed with toothpaste. The turkey baked in a plastic bag appears innocuous to most people, but imparts synthetic chemicals into the turkey that have long-term effects rather than immediate ones. Many people get high by breathing accelerants from spray cans and airplane glue. Someone I knew decades ago attempted to convince me to cover my mouth and nose with a brown paper bag drenched in airplane glue. Of course I did not. After many years of various crimes, he died in prison after murdering his wife. Professional spray painters of cars and buildings who don’t wear full-face masks that remove extremely fine particles and both organic and inorganic gases are literally doomed to disease like emphysema and cancers, as well as inheritable chromosome alterations. They also get high in the process of doing so.

All plastics are toxic to some degree, as plastics are made almost entirely from fossil fuels – gas, oil, and coal. That alone should be enough for most people to begin comprehending inherent dangers. No sane person would drink petrol or breathe gas from a stovetop. But a large percentage of people eat foods with measurable concentrations of pesticides, herbicide, fungicides, all the ‘-cides,’ which comes from Latin caedere, meaning “to kill, to strike down.” These foods have measurable concentrations on and in them even after washed.

Synthetic polymers are products like latex paint, common materials, that make clothing, carpets, furniture, coatings, lubricants and residential cleaning products. Many health and beauty aids contain synthetic chemicals. Fingernail paints are also in that category as well as the remover. Imagine those innocent women working in a nail care shop all day! And think of the horrible effects on their children yet to be conceived. As well as their children’s descendants.

All of these synthetic products are toxic — undeniably toxic. Yet industry representatives state emphatically that they are not. The truth is that their toxicity is just below regulatory levels of health and food regulations. Therein is the semantical word play used to deceive innocent people. Corporate shills can legally state that their products meet all applicable regulations while simultaneously realizing the deception(s).

Many regulations are simply meaningless, in terms of protecting humans and life from the toxicity of plastics — at extremely low concentrations. What they accomplish instead is to protect the producers, the corporate entities who lie to us in order to continue producing and profiting. The advertising they place in front of us about their products saving time; are safe; are fun, even sexy; highly useful; light weight; easily transported; and recyclable. Furthermore, they avoid speaking about toxicity unless forced to do so. And even then, they will flippantly state that all plastic products meet or exceed governmental health and food regulations.

On that point of meeting or exceeding regulatory standards they are mostly correct because they wrote the regulations and/or had sufficient influence over approvals. Odds are that if anything is ever tested, it’s done by the manufacturers themselves, not a governmental agency. Which points to the extremely low value of said testing – fox in the henhouse. These corporations still deny the effects of their endocrine disruptors, happening well below concentrations stipulated in regulations

Those regulations plastics manufacturers point to as proof of safety are actually written by those same corporations of that regulated community. At a minimum, the regulations are heavily affected by lobbying forces as well as by corporate scientist consultants on the committees drafting such legislation.

The effectiveness of these regulations doesn’t stand a chance of protecting consumers, not after they’ve been eviscerated by the industry hacks posing as scientists. One must exhibit extreme caution before believing anything a corporate scientist states.

Our right to a good life and health was subjugated by corporate greed.
We are naïve slaves of corporate lies and products.

If they actually tell the truth publicly they’d be out of their jobs, very lucrative jobs at that. And even then, many or most of them believe in their product because of ignorance or necessity. By remaining ignorant of the harm that plastics induce, they have plausible deniability. They can state, “To the best of my knowledge…” and get away with lying.

In the mid-1990s, ex-tobacco industry (corporate) scientist Jeffrey Wigand revealed that his former employer, Brown & Williamson, suppressed research about the addictive powers of nicotine. At great risk to his and his family’s life Wigand agreed to be interviewed by CBS show 60-minutes, which watered down the interview for fear of being sued. See this review of The Insider. The chemicals used in tobacco products are highly held secrets, but almost anything is legal for use in cigarettes. Even the white paper wrappers are toxic when burned. Smoking delivers more dioxin that sticking one’s head down the smoke stack of a municipal incinerator. [H Muto, Y Takizawa. Dioxins in cigarette smoke. Arch Environ Health. 1989 May-Jun;44(3):171-4]

Another type is the academic scientist like Tyrone B. Hayes a professor in the Dept of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. Dr Hayes found that the very common pesticide atrazine, made by Syngenta, mutates frog genitals, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into females.

It goes far deeper than that. This 17-minute video, The Toxic Baby? is a most enlightening explanation by Tyrone Hayes and Penelope Jagessar Chaffer at TEDWomen 2010. I strongly recommend watching this.

In human females, atrazine causes breast cancer. The response by Syngenta, the corporation that produces atrazine was to fight to keep it registered as safe. And in the meantime, that same corporation produced an anti-breast cancer drug Letrozole. So, “instead of treating this disease by preventing exposure to the chemicals that promote it, we simply respond by putting more chemicals into the environment.” – Dr Hayes. Besides the obvious harm to all life, Dr Hayes was called crazy, lazy, a liar, a cheat as his work was disparaged by the multinational corporation Syngenta’s disinformation staff and consultants using its massive coffers. To make matters far worse, Syngenta AG is now owned by ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

To the point of corporate scientists, most scientific universities are pumping out future corporate scientists to find projects that increase corporate profits. Corporate jobs offer the best pay. A lot more than teachers are paid. Truth is of little value in the corporate world. Only profit matters. One does what one is told or expects to be expelled quickly. And it follows that when a corporation pays for academic research, university buildings or any type of university presence, their corporate lies are assured to be proliferated. That same disinformation is taught in lower-level schools by the students who learn corporate science. In this way, the mess spreads throughout society and is bolstered by advertising in print, on billboards, on radio, TV and internet. Many young people become enamoured with following a scientific career are not made aware that the only purpose of a corporation is profit. Those young people are not informed that if they inadvertently discover their employer’s products are dangerous, that they must bury that evidence.

From before birth, we are bathed in the synthetic toxins in a wide range of concentrations. Each exposure is disastrously meaningful, whether extremely low or extremely high. Many times, these exposures are additive and continue throughout our lives on a 24/7 seven basis. Continued exposures are not accounted for in regulations. Extremely low-concentrations are also not considered.

The effects caused by an endocrine-disrupting substance are only seen long after the exposure. For example, the exposure of a foetus in the womb to an endocrine-disrupting substance may affect the health of the adult and possibly also its future generations.

Every moment of our thoroughly modern lives is engulfed in plastics. They are presently inescapable. Found literally everywhere on earth and everywhere within every one of us and every life form today. They are inescapable.

We are not asked if we want to partake. We have no choice. It is literally impossible to buy a product that is not made of or processed with plastic — synthetic polymers. Many people try to escape this inevitability. I did so for years. If at all possible I still avoid plastic contacting my food. I avoid canned foods if possible. And while I still avoid as much as I can, I am thoroughly aware that all commercially available produce is in constant contact with plastics. The mulching and irrigation is plastic. The packaging too. The bags and boxes. Milk comes in plastic jugs and sometimes plastic-lined paper boxes.

But our plastic addiction is worse than drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol combined, because one cannot quit them – plastics – they are inescapable beginning before conception, and ending when we die.

The synthetic polymer industry started just after WW2. When I was young I saw very few plastic products. In fact, as a young child I thought plastic products were cheap copies of real materials like wood, metal and glass. My opinion is only slightly modified since childhood. I see the magic accomplished. But I also see the lack of longevity. The short life compared with real materials. There are many products that I think would be next to impossible to duplicate without plastics. And to that point, the producers would be hard-pressed to do without plastics since almost everything has been turned to plastic or requires plastic coatings and accessories. But simultaneously, I fully comprehend the faults, the lies and the rapidly increasing dangers with the male sperm count falling, miscarriages increasing, breast cancer in women and men. Species are going extinct from both the toxic effects and climate change caused by the fossil fuels that plastics are made from.

I’m not delusional enough to think that if the production of plastics is ceased immediately, by some incredible act of magic or common sense, that all problems would also cease. We do not know yet exactly how long the plastic will last in all of the places it has gone — everywhere. Hundreds of years, possibly more. And regardless of the hardships experienced, it must be halted along with all uses of fossil fuels. On that the only doubt comes from corporations which have gained unimaginable wealth from our lives and all life on Earth. As the temperature rises, winds grow stronger and all manner of weather pummels us outside of any seasonal norms, there will always be some fools that demand continued uses of they things that are killing us and them.

While I’ve been labelling plastics as addictive for many years, I now realize they are unavoidable and inescapable. We literally have no choice. Synthetic polymers are more a form of enslavement than addiction. The current direction of the industry is to double the production of synthetic polymers not reduce them. A parallel path is to create similar materials from “less toxic” chemicals. These are called biodegradable and even non-plastic plastics made from plant matter. For the most part, they still require toxic synthetic chemicals to impart the required physical qualities desired by industries and consumers — colour, flexibility and more. The plant matter is grown using toxic pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers that are very large part of the problem with commercial agriculture that pollute groundwater and degrade the soils. Plus they contribute greenhouse gasses that are violently disturbing the climate, weather, melting ice, raising sea levels, thoroughly mixing up the seasons and flat-out driving extinctions and killing humans.

Your enslavers care not a whit if you realize the dangers inherent to this world foisted upon you in the employ of their corporate greed. Nor do they care for your good health because they can profit equally or better from your bad health as well as your death. If this were merely an addiction, we’d be able to halt it.

This thing I call addiction is actually psychological and economic enslavement that begins before your birth.

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