Toxic Take-Out: Styrofoam Boxes, Food & Cancer

We’ve posted a tip about styrofoam, but I wanted to reiterate the importance of getting styrofoam out of your life.  Styrofoam is not only bad for the environment, but it’s bad for you.

Styrofoam is hazardous to human health.  It contains the neurotoxins styrene and benzene, which are widely accepted to be carcinogens. These toxins can leach into food that’s acidic, warm, alcoholic or oily and into the environment after exposure to rain and other weather.  This means that it’s critical that you don’t microwave food in styrofoam or put hot food into styrofoam containers.  Out of an abundance of caution, you shouldn’t eat from styrofoam at all.

Ask restaurants to wrap any leftovers in foil or if you are super organized, bring your own container.  Don’t be afraid to educate restaurateurs about the health and environmental hazards associated with styrofoam.  There are great alternatives out there, such as sugar cane based products, recycled paper products and corn based products.  For packing peanuts, there are now biodegradable  corn starch based packing peanuts that dissolve in water.

In 2006, 1,460,000 tons of polystyrene foam were deposited in landfills in the United States.  Also known as Styrofoam, polystyrene foam is the worst of the packaging offenders. It’s made of non-renewable petroleum and once manufactured, it’s not biodegradable.  As soon as polystyrene is contaminated by food (like crumbs or grease from your french fries) it is no longer recyclable, and very few recycling facilities accept it even when it’s clean.

Many cities, like Portland, San Francisco and Freeport, Maine, have banned polystyrene both because of the threats it poses to human and environmental health and because it can choke wildlife when swallowed.  You might be interested to note that this year, when Congress changed from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority, the coffee cups were switched from an eco-friendly paper back to, you guessed it, styrofoam.   Needless to say they also switched the compostable corn based utensils back to plastic.  They claimed cost savings and that everyone was frustrated with the inability to use the other products.  I claim that they must be morons if they can’t figure out how to use utensils and cups.  Oh, wait, maybe I’m on to something.

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About Laurie Noble

As head of her own corporate communications and public relations company, Laurie Carter Noble has had extensive experience in creating successful marketing strategies. She has drawn on this expertise in her real estate career and has found it invaluable in helping clients create successful marketing strategies for selling their homes. Giving clients marketing plans targeted to their specific needs and highlighting the unique qualities of their homes is one of the services Laurie provides to those who list their homes with her. Having moved a family several times herself, with the help of her husband Richard, she is aware of the special needs of the buyer relocating to a new home. Through careful research and a thorough knowledge of the Boston market, Laurie successfully matches prospective buyers to a home suited to their needs. Her guidance is available through every aspect of the purchasing transaction, whether it is helping to secure financing, having the home inspected or making temporary housing arrangements, should that be required. With her husband, Richard, Laurie has developed and managed a series of properties. She has extensive experiences dealing with investment properties and using them effectively to create income. A cum laude graduate of Syracuse University, Laurie received her B.A. in English Literature and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She also holds an M.S. in Secondary Education and an M.A. in English from Villanova University. A fluent speaker of German, Laurie studied German literature at the Yale University Graduate School and at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. She also is fluent in French, which she studied at the University of Strasbourg, France. For many years she was a member of the English Department at Villanova University. Laurie is committed to serving the community in which she lives. She has done pro bono work for agencies that work for social justice in Boston. Issues of women's and children's welfare are of particular concern to her and she has written on those issues for newspapers and magazines in the Boston area. She is a tour guide for the Mayo House, a historic house owned by the Chatham Conservation Society and is also a pro bono marketing consultant for the Harwich Junior Theater, promoting artistic opportunities for children all over Cape Cod. Recently Laurie completed a major marketing portfolio, pro bono, for COGdesign, a non-profit Boston based organization dedicated to helping urban communities create beautiful inner city green spaces. While a member of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, she was active in the Women’s Network and served on the Education Committee. She has lived in Boston’s Back Bay for almost 20 years and is a member of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay. Laurie and Richard have two daughters.
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7 Responses to Toxic Take-Out: Styrofoam Boxes, Food & Cancer

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  5. Tara says:

    Not that I’m a fan of styrofoam, but I’d like to see some references or studies backing up your claims that the components that make up styrofoam can be leached out into foods or liquids just from typical use.

  6. Katie Noble says:

    Here is the link to the source actually studying the transfer of styrene. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1812015
    There are some older studies indicating that the breakdown of styrofoam when heated gives off negligible amounts of styrene, but they don’t indicate which other chemicals are released when styrofoam is broken down. I know polystyrene foam releases 57 different toxins when incinerated. http://www.firefighterswithparkinsons.net/index.cfm?section=10&pagenum=208
    The bottom line is that even if styrene naturally occurs in foods such as cinnamon, beer, beef, we don’t know how our bodies metabolize naturally occurring styrene versus manmade. Styrene was recently added to the list of known carcinogens, so it seems logical to limit our exposure to this chemical.

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