Thursday, March 08, 2012

Extreme Misstatements about Polymers

By now, we've all seen our share of statements about polymers that are wrong, such as BPA leaching from PET or that PVC constantly emits dioxin, I find these to be fairly minor. Just this last week however, I ran across a couple of examples that pass way beyond what I just cited:
  • How about this for a headline? Funeral Held for Bartlesville Man Credited with Discovery of Plastic. It's not just the headline that's wrong (headlines are often written by someone other than the reporter). No, in this case, the reporter makes the same mistake in the first line of the article: "The man responsible for inventing plastic died this week." Not A plastic, or multiple PLASTICS, but the all the plastic in the world. I mean no disrespect for the deceased as the man in question is John Paul Hogan, and certainly a remarkable inventor as he codiscovered a catalyst that allowed for the polymerization of crystalline (high-density) polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Prior to that, these materials could not be polymerized in ways that gave usable materials. The discover allowed for the commercialization of the two largest volume plastics in the world. It's just that HDPE and PP are plastics, but they are not generic, all-encompassing "plastic" referred to in the article. Synthetic plastic materials existed for well over 100 year prior to the discovery of these catalysts, the discovery of which occurred 70 years ago.

    I'll be honest that I never understood how this work differed from that of the Nobel Prize-winning duo Ziegler and Natta - I view it as independent discovery but I certainly would like to learn if someone else knows more.

  • This next one is probably not safe for work, or at least, the linked page isn't. The site advertises a prophylactic device used as a form a male birth control. In it, it makes the outlandish claim their their product is made from a "revolutionary NEW Non-Latex material called “Polyisoprene”". Polyisoprene, in fact is not a revolutionary new material, as it - the synthetic version - has been around since WWII, and the natural version - natural rubber - has been around for millenia. On the positive side, and as a follow up to yesterday's post about rubber/solvent incompatibility, the manufacturer of this product shares the same concerns. The bottom of their ad states boldly in red letters "DO NOT USE OIL BASED LUBRICANTS WITH POLYISOPRENE AS THIS WILL DAMAGE THE [generic description of the product]." So not only will knowing about rubber/solvent incompatibility prevent damage to your hands, it may also prevent having an extra set of hands around the house.

    Hat tip to Stuart Cantrill for providing me the lead for this second item. He commented on Twitter yesterday about the ad's claim and had the good sense not describe the product nor to post a picture.

1 comment:

Mike T. said...

Amen-- yes often easy for me to forget how insanely complicated polymers/plastics can seem to people without any chemistry background.