The Hidden Dangers of Styrofoam: Environmental and Health Concerns Unveiled

Styrofoam hazards - Using styrofoam as food containers is indeed practical and inexpensive. However, if the chemical content in it is proven to be harmful to reproductive organs and even contaminates breast milk for infants, should styrofoam still be the choice for food and beverage containers?

The use of styrofoam as food and beverage containers is easily found in the country. Its low cost, leak-resistant nature, and ability to withstand heat or cold are some reasons why containers made of cork or Expandable Polystyrene Foam (EPS) are favored by small food and beverage industry players.

EPS was first discovered by Otis Ray McIntire of Dow Chemical in 1941, with styrofoam as its trademark. Initially, styrofoam was only used as insulation in building construction materials. Unfortunately, styrofoam is currently misused as food and beverage containers.

To create these disposable items, small polystyrene polymer beads are heated using chemicals until they expand 50 times their original volume. After cooling, the enlarged beads are placed in molds ranging from cups, bowls, to food containers.

Finally, the beads are reheated and expanded again until they fuse together. It's no wonder the end product is so lightweight, as 95% of it is air.

During the manufacturing process, the heated EPS beads emit an unpleasant odor and release 57 harmful substances into the air. This styrofoam production process is categorized as the fifth-largest producer of hazardous waste in the world.

Moreover, styrofoam is very difficult to recycle. During the molding process, the EPS beads have already expanded and cannot be transformed into other objects. Like other plastic waste, it takes 500 years to decompose this styrofoam waste.

Endangering Reproduction and Contaminating Breast Milk

In addition to environmental hazards, a number of health threats lurk for users of styrofoam food and beverage containers. It's no secret that the absorbent nature of styrofoam is very dangerous. The added chemical content in the production of styrofoam, such as benzene, carcinogens, and styrene, reacts quickly once food is introduced.
Styrofoam health risks

Research from the Food Safety Division in Japan revealed that styrofoam residues in food can lead to Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals (EDC). EDC is a condition that occurs due to disruptions in the endocrine and reproductive systems in humans caused by toxic chemicals in food.

More surprisingly, a survey conducted in the United States in 1986 found that 100% of the fat tissues of Americans contained styrene.

Another study in New Jersey stated that 75% of the breast milk content of some mothers was found to be contaminated with styrene due to the use of styrofoam containers for food and beverages. In pregnant women, styrene content can also migrate to the fetus through the placenta.

Styrene is soluble in fat and alcohol, so it is strictly prohibited from coming into contact with the food and beverages we consume, especially milk and yogurt. Styrene should also not be used to package hot food or beverages.

The steam from hot food will trigger chemical reactions to occur faster. Reacted benzene will enter the body and accumulate over the years. As a result, it will cause damage to the spinal cord, leading to anemia, and even reduce the production of red blood cells, which are essential for the body.

The third substance that is no less dangerous is carcinogens, which can cause cancer. Carcinogens will be more harmful if styrofoam container users use them repeatedly because carcinogens easily dissolve. As is known, carcinogens are toxic substances that cause cancer.

Want to avoid the dangers of styrofoam? Don't forget to bring your own food or beverage containers when you want to buy food outside. It may sound inconvenient, but compared to the health threats posed by bringing your own food or beverage containers, it can be a solution.(*)