United States
December 1, 2006 3:40pm CST
Do you use styrofoam products? Do you think they should be banned?Read this article segment and decide!Styrofoam is actually a trade name set by DOW Chemical Co. for a product called polystyrene foam. Foamed polystyrene begins as tiny beads, softened by heat, next a blowing agent is used to expand the beads, and then it is shaped according to the maker's uses. Polystyrene emits benzene and styrene into the air and more importantly, into our food. Both are known human carcinogens. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) states that "eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, irritation of the stomach, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsions, rapid heart rate, and death." The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conducted a number of tests on animals and styrene exposure, claiming that "animal studies show that ingestion of high levels of styrene over several weeks can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, brain, and lungs. When styrene was applied to the skin of rabbits, it caused irritation." Surprisingly, such harmful effects come from a product that a majority of people use almost every single day. In 1986, styrene was found in 100 percent of all samples of human fat tissue taken as part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) human tissue survey. "Researchers found that Styrofoam cups lose weight when in use, meaning that styrene is oozing into the foods and drinks we consume. It then ends up stored in our fatty tissue, where it can build up to levels that can cause fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, blood abnormalities, weakness, headache, anxiety, and depression." More chemicals emanate from Styrofoam if it's heated in a microwave. Not only is Styrofoam terrible for our health, but it is also extremely hazardous to the environment. It is not biodegradable, and can leak toxins into the groundwater under our overstuffed landfills. The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified fifty-seven chemical byproducts released during the combustion of polystyrene foam. "The process of making polystyrene pollutes the air and creates large amounts of liquid and solid waste." A 1986 EPA report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. "By volume, the amount of space used up in landfills by foamed polystyrene is between 25 and 30 percent," claims the Polystyrene Fact Sheet created by the Foundation for Advancement in Science and Education in Los Angeles, California.
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