Plastics, the first synthetic substances

   The first synthetic substances—substances that do not occur in nature—were developed by chemists in laboratories in the 1800's. A few of these sub­stances began to have wide applications. For example, celluloid was used to make movie films, and bakelite was used for electrical equipment. It was not until after 1945, however, that these substances, called plastics, began to appear in every area of life. By the mid-1960's, for example, there was more synthetic rubber than natural rubber in the world.
   Plastics became an essential part of daily existence. They were used to equip and furnish kitchens. They changed the way buildings were constructed and affected the manufacture of objects from toys to cars. They completely altered the appearance as well as the manufacture of most of the things people use every day, from tooth-brushes to telephones. Synthetic fibers were woven into easy-care fabrics for clothing, upholstery, and many other uses.
   Many plastics were made from oil products. The production of plastics, therefore, depended on the unpredictable nature of international oil prices. Nevertheless, plastics continued to be essential to modern life in the 21th century.