Friday, September 2, 2011

Health Dangers of Styrofam Cups

Cons of Styrofoam Cups

Polystyrene cups, though cheap, are not without their negative traits.

Polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, a popular brand of polystyrene, is used in a variety of products, ranging from packing to culinary elements. While the foam is light and cheap to purchase, there are downsides to using polystyrene foam cups, from environmental hazards to personal health risks.


Polystyrene is a non-biodegradable substance, and while it is possible to recycle the product, the majority of polystyrene ends up as trash. While it poses only a minimal imminent problem when properly disposed of at a dump where decomposition is slow, polystyrene disposed of as litter is much more damaging. Polystyrene which is thrown out on the streets will sit in a gutter or on a sidewalk without degrading until properly disposed of.

Production of polystyrene creates pollution in the air, as well as in the form of liquid waste, and is one of the world's largest industries in terms of pollution created. In addition to pollution from the creation of the polystyrene, an EPA study found that when burned, polystyrene gives off 57 chemical byproducts, making it a toxic hazard in the event of a fire.
Natural Resources Consumption

In order to create polystyrene for use as cups, the industry requires the use of non-renewable resources. Polystyrene is created using byproducts of petroleum which are heated, then infused with gases to generate the foam. An increase in consumption of polystyrene products like cups requires an increased demand for the petroleum, resulting in faster depletion of the world's oil supply.

Polystyrene cups are commonly used for beverages which are served hot, as the insulation helps to protect the hand of the drinker. Unfortunately, putting heated drinks into a polystyrene cup poses a potential health risk to the drinker. As the hot liquids begin to heat the container, the cup leaches trace elements of polystyrene into the liquid within. As the consumer drinks the contents, he in turn takes in the chemicals. While trace amounts from sporadic consumption are not harmful, there's a risk of neurotoxins in high concentrations.
Health Risks from Styrene

If excessive ingestion of sytrene occurs and allows the chemical to build up to unhealthy levels within your body, you will be exposed to several health risks. In addition to being a possible carcinogen, studies have shown that styrene can lead to neurotoxic damage, which results in such symptoms as fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Styrene buildup has the potential to lower platelet counts and hemoglobin levels, and increases the risk of lymphatic or chromosomal abnormalities.

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