21 March 2011
Post 359: Plastic
My grandfather would have owed his life to plastics had he been born much later than 1917. He was a premie, and no larger than the towel lined bread pan they kept him in to keep him warm in the oven. He had a very low chance of survival, a chance that would be much higher today now that they can keep even the smallest of premature babies alive with plastics. Had my grandfather needed a blood transfusion or nutrient bag, he would have been out of luck because the tubing just wasn't small and delicate enough for an infant that tiny.
Strangely his life was dominated by plastics anyway. Although they didn't come into wide use until the late 1940's, my grandfather's whole life centered around working with plastics. He went to the University of Chicago where he earned a PhD in Chemistry. He later went on to work for various chemical companies including Dow and Amoco where he likely worked with at least a few plastics in his time.
Later, his wife's life would be saved by a dialysis machine as well as other countless plastics when she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer. His grandchildren's first toys were plastic, and even my mother had Barbies (in fact she was the first generation to have the doll). In fact, my brother spent time in a plastic tank as a newborn so they could monitor his breathing.
It seems somehow fitting that a man whose life started so tenuously worked with a material that would have automatically increased his chances of survival if only he had been born in the late 1960's.* And how troubling it is that those same plastics have been shown to be potentially harmful in later developmental stages? Does it mean we stop using plastics in NICU and other medical procedures? No, but it does mean we can find better plastics or materials. One might say that lives depend on it.
My review can be found at Goodreads.
LibsNote: Free review copy provided by Netgalley.
*This is when Neonatal ICU's were set up; they did not begin using plastics until the 1980's, at least according to Freinkel's research.
**Oh, if you have a strange fascination with my grandparents, you can read about my paternal grandfather here... or at least about his dog.