We’ve all been exposed to Styrofoam at some point in our lives. The expanded polystyrene foam is used in the manufacture of everything from shipping materials and food containers to coffee cups.
Styrofoam is the trade name for this type of material that is solely produced by the Dow Chemical Company. Back in 1941, a team of researchers from the company rediscovered a way to make foamed polystyrene, that was first invented by the Swede Carl Georg Munters. Dow then acquired the exclusive rights to make use of Munters’ patents, and began to manufacture huge amounts of what the company called ‘Styrofoam.’
Nowadays, most of us refer to generic polystyrene foam as Styrofoam. Although these foams have many uses, such as for insulation and buoyancy, they also have many well-documented negative effects on both human health, and the environment.
Although it is a very handy and useful material in theory, generic polystyrene foam comes with many issues that make it a concern for us all:
People who make showers, boats, and tubs are included in this number, and many have found that they suffer from adverse health effects as a result of said exposure. Gastrointestinal effects and irritation of the upper respiratory tract, as well as general irritation of the eyes, and skin have been reported.
The chemicals, Styrene and Benzene, used to make Styrofoam, have also been linked to leukemia and Parkinson’s disease.
Chronic exposure can affect the central nervous system, showing as minor effects on the blood and kidneys, and could be a contributing factor in developing headaches, depression, weakness, and fatigue.
In addition to this, Styrene is classified both by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible (IARC), and the EPA, as a possible human carcinogen. For these reasons, a voluntary compliance program is in place for industries where Styrene is used.
Although back in 1992, the US Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration were unsuccessful in their attempt to limit worker exposure to the substance, the Styrene Research Center (SIRC) is still encouraging their member companies to limit their workers’ exposure to 50 parts per million. The following are some facts about the negative effects of Styrofoam:
Although Styrofoam is incredibly useful, it can be harmful in terms of human health and the environment. Thankfully, there are some alternatives that can be used in similar ways to the substance:
Now you know of the dangers of Styrofoam, how can you avoid it?
In time, it is hoped that more cities in the U.S. will follow San Francisco’s lead, as they were the first city to ban Styrofoam. Through making some small changes to the way you live your life, you can extend that ban to your own home and family life. Don’t take the risk, and choose eco-friendly alternatives instead.
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