Microplastics And The Case For Universal Health Care

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Microplastic particles among sand grains. Credit: 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University, CC BY-SA 2.0.

In recent news, I learned that microplastics are everywhere. They’re in our parks, oceans, the soil, the food we eat, and probably even the air we breathe. Just do a search for “microplastics are everywhere”, and you’ll see a litany of articles spanning the political spectrum, the blogosphere, and the mainstream news. Wow. Even mainstream news can’t ignore this story. What comes to mind is this:

Give a hoot. Don’t pollute.

Plastic is everywhere because some of us choose to let it be everywhere. We dump it on the oceans, leave it to the wind in our parks, or toss it out the window on our road trips.

To get an idea of the scale of plastic pollution on our planet, our home, go here to the Guardian to read one article of many on the subject:

But the wholesale pollution of the land was hidden. Tap water is gathered from hills, rivers, lakes and wells, sampling the environment as it goes. It turns out that tiny fibres of plastic are everywhere.

Plastic is made from oil. That oil often comes from places that are perpetually mired in war. Carl Sagan said that extinction is the rule, survival is the exception. Microplastics seem to bear our this rule rather well.

Now that plastic is everywhere, who will clean it up? Who will pay to clean it up?

More to the point, what is that stuff going to do to our bodies? Who will pay for the healthcare we require when we discover the consequences of those tiny plastic particles getting into our bodies?

It is clear that consumers demanded plastic. We now have plastic everywhere as a result of that demand. Hardly a day or even an hour goes by without us touching plastic. Plastic is in our phones, our computers, our water bottles, our cars, and our clothing. My glasses are made of plastic. My shoes have plastic built into the soles. Just about everything that I buy from the market has plastic in those nice shiny packages.

Consider again what The Guardian said. As water runs downhill from the mountains and the hills, it samples the environment and collects plastic particles. That goes into our lakes, farms, our food, the meat we eat, and the produce we pick at the market.

The ubiquitous nature of these tiny plastic particles will almost certainly affect our health. Will the oil and plastic industries pay for the deleterious effects of plastic on our health? They will bury any lawsuit in motion practice for decades and a ton of money with their army of lawyers. They will do everything they can to ensure that the health costs of their products are “externalized” so as not to touch their shareholders. Remember, in America, shareholders are the supreme rulers of our land.

If there ever was a case for universal health care, this is it. A universal tax on every form of income will be required to pay for the health care needs of people who have been exposed to a lifetime to plastic. The reason that such a tax must be universal is so that the burden of the cost of health care cannot be “externalized” by the corporations that make the products that make us ill.

Then, and only then, will the producers of the products we buy, start to think about the entire lifecycle of the products they sell. They will start to build the costs of waste recovery into all of their products.

Then and only then will people who carelessly toss their garbage to the side of the road, begin to consider the long term implications of the act of polluting the world. People who toss their waste anywhere must know that nature is not a friend to plastics and nature will eventually evolve and adapt to plastics. I don’t think it will be very long before we discover a microbe that eats plastic and the poop from that microbe turns out to be more toxic than the food.

This is not even a matter of debate. All of the technology we make, including plastic, has a pollution cost and a health care cost, and we cannot allow that cost to be shifted around so that the producers of the products we buy can escape the financial consequences of their waste.

The best way to pay for universal health care is to ensure everyone pays for it. That means there can be no deductions for this tax for anyone anywhere, so that there are no loopholes. If everyone pays, then the tax remains small, and it would follow that everyone would have access to the health care they need, no questions asked.

Write on.

Originally published at steemit.com on August 25, 2018. Edited for clarity, grammar and a turn of phrase when so inspired.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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