The Plastic Plague is a Political Problem

by Paul Goettlich

Seventy years ago, I saw very little plastic. Since then, world production or plastics exploded from zero to more than 359 million tons annually.[1] These cheap imitations of life became inescapable with an ever-increasing intensity. It’s not just everywhere now, it’s in every living creature on Earth!  More than 9.1 billion tons have been made since 1950, that would bury Manhattan under two miles of plastic.[2]

In 1972, Dr. Edward J Carpenter published the first warning of pelagic plastic in the journal Science, “Increasing production of plastics, combined with present waste-disposal practices, will undoubtedly lead to increases in the concentration of these particles.”[3] The plastics industry pressured him directly and possibly also through his employer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, to cease publishing his scientific observations.[4]

Thirty years after Dr. Carpenter’s warnings, the global reach of its synthetic tentacles could no longer be denied by industry when it was proven that was six times more plastic by weight than zooplankton in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.[5] Government was effectively silent. Manufacturers blamed consumers. Consumers are collectively a convenience-based group that’s incapable of understanding the consequences of their purchases. As a result of visual media propagated by industry, education and society, their lemmings.

The Earth is now catastrophically altered.[6] Countless birds, turtles, and whales are entangled, choked and starved. By 2025, ocean plastic will weigh 30% as much as the fish. By 2050, it will outweigh fish,[7] and virtually all seabirds will ingest plastic.[8] Just as plastic wrap clings in the kitchen, we cling to plastic regardless of its debilitating costs.[9] We’re addicted to it; addled by it; and it’s killing us, both quickly and over multiple generations.

Plastics are synthetic, anthropogenic polymers made of many thousands of chemicals, additives, processing agents and byproducts. The many processes that make plastic are called polymerization, which combines monomers into polymers. None are complete or perfect, just as nothing on Earth is. There’s always one or more toxic chemical available to migrate into whatever it contacts.[10] [11]

Most common plastic products are toxic.[12] Chewing gum is synthetic polymers with synthetic plasticizers.[13]  Clothes, cellphone, computer and car all have free monomers plus additional toxicants you drink, eat, get intimate with, snort, lick, and wear.

FDA assumes that toxic chemicals migrate from all food contact plastics, and claims those migrations all fall below regulatory limits.[14] Regulations are unfortunately based on archaic writings of a 16th century alchemist named Paracelsus,[15] paraphrased as “only the dose makes a thing not a poison,”[16] or, if exposure is low enough, it’s not poison. That centuries-old concept is today’s regulatory folklore, focusing on large doses that kill and cause cancers, while ignoring extremely low dose exposures that are significantly more common throughout everyone’s day.[17]

An example of high dose exposure is the attempted assassination of Ukraine President Victor Yushchenko by poisoning with dioxin in his soup. His face became grossly disfigured with pustules and pock marks – chloracne.[18]

Low dose exposures can result in the body misinterpreting many chemicals as hormones. They also disrupt the normal actions and production of hormones, possibly leading to permanent systemic and generational problems via the endocrine system – developmental problems, physical deformities, mental illness, decrease in intelligence, lifetime depression or anger, skewed sex, reduced fertility and spontaneous abortions. Obesity and diabetes are also linked to extremely low doses from plastics that aren’t regulated in any meaningful way.[19] [20] [21]

We accept them as being out of our control, and react with pills, chemotherapy, radiation, operations and assisted reproductive technologies. Global IVF services revenue is projected to grow 9.3% annually from 2019 to 2026.[22] Extremely little goes to prevention, while $27.9 billion was spent in 2013 on cures in the US.[23] That fails to describe the debilitating effects on families and society.

Between 1950 and 1973, sperm count decreased 0.8% annually, doubling between 2011 and 2019 to a 1.9% annual rate of decline. Men could be impotent slightly after 2050.[24]

Public knowledge of synthetic materials’ dangers is scant, inaccessible and incomprehensible. It is possessed by university trained polymer scientists who either don’t themselves realize the dangers or focus solely on prospering. Like priests using Latin prior from before the Middle Ages until 1964,[25] today’s scientific nomenclature separates us from the truth of plastics,[26] a normal part of capitalism.

As of 2015, EPA collected screening data on almost 10,000 chemicals.[27] As a preliminary investigation, it doesn’t provide required knowledge on those chemicals.  Yet there are 84,000 chemicals in US commerce,[28] meaning that extremely few chemicals have had more than cursory toxicological investigation. Then combinations of chemicals create synergistic effects[29] — when one chemical potentiates the toxic effect of another, of which there are 7.454 X 10^(37,962) possible combinations  – more than 7 with 37,962 zeros after it! .[30] A boundlessly complicating factor is that each of us (7.7 billion Earth inhabitants) has our own unique metabolic trait.[31] Discovery of all synergies is virtually impossible. Combining chemical and human traits into the world’s largest study is essential to obtaining proof. 

“No Proof of Harm” is Industry’s most frequent chant. But logically, lack of proof is proof of nothing. It only means research hasn’t been done on those overwhelmingly large numbers of chemicals or combinations thereof. Industry buries and misrepresents as much financially damaging research as possible by whatever means available.[32] Another industry gimmick is testing products’ individual chemicals instead of in total. The claim “free of BPA” is meaningless because its replacement has similar toxicity. The public is being duped by industry every day. In a rare moment of hindsight, a retired Du Pont chemist who discovered nylon predicted in 1988 that humanity would “perish by being smothered in plastic.”[33]

All life-phases of plastic are toxic: extraction, production, use and disposal. Biodegradable and green plastics are oxymorons like clean coal, as is plastics recycling and the circular economy of plastics – all deceptions. Reuse and disposal of plastics contribute further to pollution and climate change by consuming energy and toxic chemicals, while emitting other toxic chemicals and greenhouse gasses.

Plastics recycling is preposterous. It’s never worked and never will, as the vast planned increases in production will make today’s masquerade seem like child’s play. “Plastics production has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014 and is expected to double again over the next 20 years.”[34]

Recycling briefly keeps plastic from the trash heap by adding energy and petroleum, until it’s just useless trash. The chasing triangles recycling symbols on plastics should indicate an unbroken loop. But it’s just one more in a very long line of industry marketing deceptions telling us “it’s all good.” There is nothing better than avoiding as much as possible. But how?

Plastic milk jugs are an example of this folly. Of the billions dutifully placed in recycling bins across the USA, not one is recycled into a new milk jug because they are all contaminated by milk and more. Conversely, the chemicals in plastic jugs get into the milk.[35]

Most plastic is used once, quickly ending up on the ground or in already choked landfills, making decomposition of everything else it’s mingled with mostly impossible. Regardless of its treatment, it may fall apart to the point of being microscope. But depending on conditions, it can last indefinitely in oceans and landfills, continuing to migrate toxins.[36]

China now refuses our waste. It’s sent legally and illegally to other countries like Indonesia. Some is used to fuel numerous commercial kitchens.[37] Skies there are blackened by choking soot. The ground is coated with thick ash coats that’s heavily laden with toxic chemical residues like dioxin. For those people, it’s an unavoidable, extreme health hazard. The waste of our lifestyle is a living hell for others. These stories are disturbingly numerous.

Banning plastic straws or disposable cups are well-intentioned, but unrealistic solutions because manufacturers replace that plastic trash in magnitudes of order faster than removal. Multiple clean-up projects, ranging from a huge floating boom with a 3-meter-deep screen below,[38] and modest trawlers create their own environmental problems by removing nature along with the plastic, with extremely little benefit gained.

Wrap your head around the size and volume requiring cleaning and it’s crystal clear that today’s cleanup efforts are madcap adventures in futility. The total area of all oceans is close to 361 million square kilometers. The total volume is about 1.3 billion cubic miles (!), with an average depth of about 3,688 meters,[39] not including lakes, reservoirs and rivers, land areas, or your own body.

Despite those insurmountable figures, industry struggles to sell plastics as a sustainable material, using verbal contortions that are quite dangerous if believed.[40] Similar to politicians, plastics manufacturers spend hundreds of millions of dollars yearly on public relations amounting to distortions and lies which overwhelm truthful plastics information. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste[41] is a group of 40 or more plastics manufacturers and users that boldly claims, “It is time for another revolution to keep plastic waste in its place.” It’s one of a myriad of industry deceptions intended to continue business as usual. At the same time, a few members are investing more than $180 billion in new plastic manufacturing facilities. As of September 2018, $202 billion was projected to flow into petrochemical build-out in the U.S. for 333 new facilities or expansion projects.[42]

Manufacturers transfer their guilt, responsibilities and liabilities to us by claiming it’s all about our litter and failure to recycle, knowing full well that nothing about this technology was thought out, but merely foisted on the world with sweet talk and lies.

As a consumer choice issue, it’s not possible for any person on Earth to avoid plastic. Everything is plastic-coated with, glued together or wrapped with plastic. Amazon delivers mountains of plastic envelopes and wrappings to our doors that are immediately added to the heap.

There’s also no plastic-free food choice. Even those fortunate people who eat self-grown organic foods are not free of it. Waste incineration and production of chlorine-based products releases dioxin and many more toxic chemicals that fall far from their sources, landing indiscriminately on all food, grass, trees, vegetables, fruits and animals that eat it on the ground or in their feed. Animals are saturated with it. Water is stored in plastic tanks; conducted in plastic tubing onto fields that are covered with plastic sheet mulching.

People who eat nonorganic foods are additionally dosed with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, having many commonalities with plastics. Nobody is excluded. “The Inuit people of Canada live on the far northern tundra and ice, 500 miles from any significant source of pollution, yet studies have shown that somehow they carry in their bodies twice the amount of the pollutant dioxin as Canadians living near areas where it is produced.”[43]

Health and beauty aids, as they are amusingly called, and cleaning agents, are loaded with synthetic polymers that you contact, breathe and ingest. Clothing is made of it in part, in whole, or is dyed and coated or treated with it. Wrinkle-free, stain-free, water-repellant qualities all rely on dangerous synthetics. Drier lint is loaded with synthetics. Your baby’s nappies and booties, playthings, crib and car seat. Think new car smell[44], which reminds me of smoking tobacco products.[45]

Plastic releases more chemicals as it’s broken down into continually smaller pieces by the forces of nature – waves, currents, wind and vehicle traffic. As it crumbles into smaller pieces, its surface area increases while its volume remains constant. Greater surface-to-volume ratio affords greater contact with its surroundings, allowing increased migration of toxic chemicals.  An added variable is that, like all things, polymers are full of voids, making the surface area significantly larger — by many orders of magnitude larger. Benoit Mandelbrot’s[46] pioneering work on fractal geometry illustrates this phenomenon.

Industry infiltrates regulatory agencies, nullifying regulations. Universities are mesmerized by corporate funding. Lobbyists mangle legislation, and with the power of semantics legally redefine and cleanse words of facts to the point where ‘natural’ isn’t natural, and ‘unintentional’ is discretionary.

There are far too many examples of corporate lies, but PVC is the posterchild. The creation of dioxin (2,3,7,8 TCDD) and dioxin-like chemicals is inevitable during processes involving chlorine, such as the manufacture of PVC[47], chemicals and pesticides, as well as incineration, which is increasingly the end for waste plastic,[48] under various deceitful pseudonyms such as waste-to-energy, refuse-derived fuel, pyrolysis, gasification, recovering energy. Corporate scientists claim dioxin is an unintended byproduct. But, since they’ve known about it for many decades, it’s quite intentional.[49]

Lawsuits are merely corporate business expenses – externalities — justified by huge profits. The goal is always executive and shareholder profit. But they must be made liable for the costs associated with all harm, throughout the world. While realizing that the natural world cannot realistically be cleansed, I still believe that those corporations must be made accountable.

Being at the top of the food chain, humans are the most affected by environmental toxicants. You eat, breathe and drink them, and pass them on through sperm, ovum, and fatty tissues to future generations, even before you were in your parents’ dreams.[50]  Having plastic in our world is like playing with fire. It’s not a matter of if one gets burned, but how badly.

I understand that reading this is extremely disconcerting. It’s troubled me for decades. Semantic differences may be argued, but these points are essentially and unbearably true. With the present volume of plastic in the ocean, landfills and our bodies, a happy ending is unlikely. We’re in dire need of strong guidance, but saddled with a President who follows whatever ignorant, hateful course will gain him votes. He’s reduced what few environmental protections existed, while obliterating reality in general.

If a boat is continually filled with water without bailing, it will sink. If that boat is the Earth and it’s continually filled with plastic with no safe means of disposal or removal, what do you think will happen? Removing plastics is essentially impossible. Yet more is continually added. The only viable course personal action is electing an extremely enlightened person who will return regulations lost since 2016 and radically update to present knowledge and needs.

Humans lived without synthetic plastics for 200,000 years, until roughly 100 years ago. The ramifications of halting plastics will be extremely disruptive to most people because of our addiction. But, given the facts, there is no other course forward. Production of most new plastics must be halted. Just remember that extremely low doses matter – single-digit parts-per-trillion!

Innumerable challenges place all life in a critical fight. Not just with plastics, but multiple pollutants as well as climate change and lunatic governments. We must stop relying on corrupt, incompetent politicians. These are consequences of thoroughly depraved and narcissist politicians over more than 70 years, aided by corporate infiltration and political donations.


[1] Plastics – the Facts 2019: An analysis of European plastics production, demand and waste data. PlasticsEurope Deutschland e. V. and Messe Düsseldorf. | DE-140-3383542019  accessed 11 Feb 2020

[2] R Geyer, et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Law Sci. Adv. 2017;3: e1700782 2017   accessed 12 Feb 2020

also see:

With No End in Sight, Plastic Litters the World. Seth Borenstein / AP 30 July 2017 accessed 12 Feb 2020

[3] Edward J. Carpenter, K. L. Smith Jr. Plastics on the Sargasso Sea Surface. Science, New Series, Vol. 175, No. 4027 (Mar. 17, 1972), pp. 1240-1241

[4] Telephone conversation with Edward J Carpenter by Paul Goettlich 10 Feb 2020

[5] Mar Pollut Bull. 2001 Dec;42(12):1297-300. A comparison of plastic and plankton in the north Pacific central gyre. Moore CJ1, Moore SL, Leecaster MK, Weisberg SB. accessed 22 Jan 2020

[6] Gennip SJV. Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 23;9(1):19662. In search for the sources of plastic marine litter that contaminates the Easter Island Ecoregion. accessed 25 Jan 2020

[7] The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics. 2016 Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 120pp  accessed 8 Feb 2020

[8] Plastic in seabirds is pervasive and increasing. Chris Wilcox, Erik Van Sebille, Britta Denise Hardesty. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2015, 112 (38) 11899-11904; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502108112 accessed 21 Jan 2020

[9] Saran Plastic Wrap Commercial (1953) YouTube accessed 7Feb 2020

[10] Stephen Hawking stated, “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist.” From “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking” (2010) science documentary television mini-series written by British physicist Stephen Hawking, created for Discovery Channel. accessed 26 Jan 2020  

[11] Author in telephone conversation with Dr. George Pauli, Associate Director of Science Policy, FDA Office of Food Additive Safety, and Mike Herndon, Head of Media, FDA Office of Food Additive Safety 22 October 2003 12:49 PM

[12] Yang, C. Z., et al (2011). Most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals: A potential health problem that can be solved. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119(7), 989.  accessed 6 Feb 2020

[13] Patent US5154938A. Gum composition having dispersed porous beads containing plasticizers. Wm Wrigley Jr Co. – According to the current invention, a chewing gum matrix has dispersed in it water-insoluble, porous polymeric beads that have microporous passages in them impregnated with one or more plasticizing agents. A chewing gum of this invention when masticated will slowly release plasticizer from the beads into the gum matrix as it is chewed to make the gum more pliable late in the chew after much of the water-soluble ingredients have been extracted.  accessed 26 Jan 2020

[14] Author in telephone conversation with Dr. George Pauli, Associate Director of Science Policy, FDA Office of Food Additive Safety, and Mike Herndon, Head of Media, FDA Office of Food Additive Safety 22 October 2003 12:49 PM

[15] Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology, 2nd Edition 2001. Edited by: Robert I. Krieger and William C. Krieger

ISBN 978-0-12-426260-7 accessed 2001 (no longer available online but on local disc.)

[16] Original German:  “Alle Ding sind Gift und nichts ohn Gift; allein die Dosis macht das ein Ding kein Gift ist”

[17] Soto AM, Sonnenschein C. Endocrine disruptors – putting the mechanistic cart before the phenomenological horse. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2018;14(6):317–318. doi:10.1038/s41574-018-0003-7 accessed 26 Jan 2020

[18] Poison’s Use as Political Tool: Ukraine Is Not Exceptional. Scott Shane / NY Times 15 Dec 2004

[19] Definition of aneuploidy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  accessed 10 Feb 2020

[20] J Toppari, et al. Male reproductive health and environmental xenoestrogens.  Environmental Health Perspectives. 1 August 1996  accessed 11 Feb 2020

[21] A Crain, et al. Female reproductive disorders: the roles of endocrine-disrupting compounds and developmental timing. Fertil Steril. 2008 October ; 90(4): 911–940. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.08.067.  accessed 11 Feb 2020

[22] IVF Services Market by Cycle Type and End User: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2019-2026. Allied Market Research. Oct 2019. accessed 21 Jan 2020

[23] National cancer expenditure analysis in the United States Medicare population, 2013. Emily S Ruiz, et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2019 37:15_suppl, 6647-6647 accessed 30 Jan 2020

[24] Hagai Levine, et al. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm concentration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 23(6), 646-659   accessed 8 Feb 2020

[25] Catholics Hear Mass in English Today for First Time in the U.S. NY Times. P.1 24 Aug 1964   accessed 12 Feb 2020

[26] D Mintz. What’s in a word: the distancing function of language in medicine. The Journal of medical humanities, 1992 Winter; 13(4): 223-33 (file on local disc) 14 Feb 2020

[27] Quote from article about award for Robert J Kavlock in 2015   accessed 6 Feb 2020

[28] Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Institute of Medicine. Identifying and Reducing Environmental Health Risks of Chemicals in Our Society: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2014 Oct 2. 2, The Challenge: Chemicals in Today’s Society. Available from:

[29] Mumtaz MM, Tully DB, El-Masri HA, De Rosa CT. Gene induction studies and toxicity of chemical mixtures. Environ Health Perspect. 2002;110 Suppl 6(Suppl 6):947–956. doi:10.1289/ehp.02110s6947 accessed 14 Feb 2020

[30] 7.454 x 10^(37,962) Calculation by Bruce E. Sagan (born March 29, 1954, Chicago, Illinois), Professor of Mathematics at Michigan State University.

[31] Kastenmüller, G. Genetics of human metabolism: an update. Human Molecular Genetics, 2015, Vol. 24, No. R1R93–R101. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddv263. accessed 27 Jan 2020

[32] A Valuable Reputation. Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker 3 Feb 2014.

After Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.  accessed 27 Jan 2020

[33] Julian W. Hill, Nylon’s Discoverer, Dies at 91. David Stout / NY Times 1 Feb 1996. accessed 20 Jan 2020

[34] p.7 “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics” World Economic Forum REF 080116 Jan 2016

[35] Stover, RL, et al. 1996. Report of the Berkeley Plastics Task Force.  accessed 8 Feb 2020

[36] Author correspondence with Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

[37] To Make This Tofu, Start by Burning Toxic Plastic. Richard C. Paddock / NY Times 14 Nov 2019. accessed 02-Jan-20

[38] Great Pacific Garbage Patch $20m Cleanup Fails to Collect Plastic. Hannah Summers / Guardian (UK) 20 Dec 2018. accessed 29 Jan 2020

[39] Eakins, B.W. and G.F. Sharman, Volumes of the World’s Oceans from ETOPO1, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder, CO, 2010. Table 1: Volumes of the World’s Oceans from ETOPO1. accessed 31 Jan 2020

[40] Prata JC, Silva ALP, da Costa JP, et al. Solutions and Integrated Strategies for the Control and Mitigation of Plastic and Microplastic Pollution. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(13):2411. Published 2019 Jul 7. doi:10.3390/ijerph16132411  accessed 31 Jan 2020

[41] The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of over 40 companies that have committed more than $1 billion, with the goal of investing $1.5 billion over the next 5 years, to help end plastic waste in the environment. The Alliance will develop, deploy and bring to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics, including reuse, recovery and recycling plastic to keep it out of the environment.     accessed 21 Jan 2020
Additional info:
Members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste:

BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, CP Group, Dow, DSM, EQUATE Petrochemical Company, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation USA, Gemini Corporation, Grupo Phoenix, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, Mondi, NOVA Chemicals, Novolex, OxyChem, PepsiCo, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, Sealed Air Corporation, Shell, Sinopec, SKC co., ltd., Storopack, Suez, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, TOMRA, Total, Veolia, Versalis (Eni), and Westlake Chemical Corporation.  From BASF website:   accessed 29 Jan 2020

[42] Founders of Plastic Waste Alliance Investing Billions in New Plants. Sandra Laville / The Guardian 21 Jan 2019  accessed  29 Jan 2020

[43] Dioxin in Arctic Circle Is Traced to Sources Far to the South. Philip J. Hilts /  NY Times 17 Oct 2000 accessed 21 Jan 2020
also see:
Long-range Air Transport of Dioxin from North American Sources to Ecologically Vulnerable Receptors in Nunavut, Arctic Canada. Final Report to the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. Commoner B, Bartlett PW, Eisl H, Couchot K. Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS)Queens College, CUNY Sep2000 accessed 21jan2020

[44] Weinhold B. Don’t breathe and drive? Pollutants lurk inside vehicles. Environ Health Perspect. 2001;109(9):A422–A427. doi:10.1289/ehp.109-a422  accessed 14 Feb 2020

[45] H. Muto, Y. Takazawa. Dioxins in Cigarette Smoke. Archives of Environmental Health, Pg. 44 (3) : 171-4 May/Jun89 Accessed 14 Feb 2020

[46] Benoit Mandelbrot, Mathematician. TED website. accessed 23 Jan 2020

[47] Pat Costner, et al. PVC: A Primary Contributor to the US Dioxin Burden. (Book) 1995   accessed 8 Feb 2020

[48] R Geyer, et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Law Sci. Adv. 2017;3: e1700782 2017   accessed 12 Feb 2020

[49] Regarding Dr Cesare Maltoni’s discovery of the harm by PVC in Dangerous Trade: Histories of Industrial Hazard across a Globalizing World. Ed. by Christopher Sellers, Joseph Melling. ISBN 978-1-4399-0468-8 (2012) p.157 accessed 30 Jan 2020

[50] Xin F, et al. Multigenerational and transgenerational effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals: A role for altered epigenetic regulation? Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2015 Jul;43:66-75. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2015.05.008. Epub 2015 May 28.   accessed 8 Feb 2020

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