Sustainable Packaging Trends and Stories
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added eight more substances to its “known human carcinogen” or “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogen” lists after World Health Organization studies about global environmental health.
Among the substances is styrene, a synthetic chemical found in Styrofoam and used in the manufacturing process for products such as food containers, pipes, fiberglass, automobile parts and other materials.
“As a pediatrician, I’m in the business of urging caution and I think this is a case where it’s reasonable to urge caution even while the data are incomplete,” Dr. Phillip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine told ABC News.
Polystyrene foam cups contain styrene – a chemical compound that is increasingly suspect. In the 12th edition of its Report on Carcinogens, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) stated that styrene is “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen,” and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified styrene as a “possible human carcinogen.” However, in spite of these classifications, polystyrene foam continues to be widely used for coffee cups, egg cartons, and salad boxes as well as disposable bowls, plates and trays. A hard version of polystyrene is used to make plastic cutlery, yogurt and cottage cheese containers, cups and clear salad bar containers.Styrene poses the greatest danger to humans who are exposed to it in the workplace.
More and more U.S. cities are pushing to ban styrofoam in food packaging materials. Environmentalists say that in California, more than 70 cities have succeeded in this initiative.
Along with the health risks associated with the manufacture of polystyrene, air pollution is another concern. The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research has found 57 chemical byproducts released during the creation of Styrofoam.
This not only pollutes the air, but also results in liquid and solid toxic waste that requires proper disposal. Another cause for concern are the brominated flame retardants that are used on Styrofoam products. Research suggests that these chemicals may have negative environmental and health effects.