Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Plastic-wrapped planet   By Laura H. Kahn, MD, MPH, MPP | 20 April 2012 “We can thank billiard balls for our modern-day, plastic-filled lives. For most of human history, everyday items such as combs were made from expensive animal parts, like tortoise shells. Then, in the 1860s, billiards became a popular pastime. Unfortunately, elephants had to be killed so that their ivory tusks could be made into billiard balls, and soon elephants were rapidly being hunted to extinction. One enterprising New York billiards supplier even offered $10,000 in gold to anyone who could come up with a good substitute for ivory. After years of toil, John Wesley Hyatt, a journeyman printer from upstate New York, developed a whitish material that he called celluloid. Alas, while the material worked well for combs, it was too volatile for billiard balls. Nevertheless, plastic was born. And animals from elephants to tortoises were given a reprieve -- for a time. ...”     Please read entire column