cerebralpixie

This blog is being restored in honor of the author's birthday. It will not be updated but it will have all of her posts. They are too good to be forgotten. If you want to quote them in any scholarly paper I am sure that the author would not mind as long as you give her credit.

Friday, February 24, 2006

BUSINESS AND STYROFOAM

First Posted "Wednesday, June 15, 2005"

What led me to write an article about Styrofoam was actually influenced by my speech class a few weeks ago. We were told to give a persuasive speech about a topic that we cared about or something that meant a lot to us. One of the first things that popped into my mind was Styrofoam- a product that I’ve prided myself with knowing so much about. For years I’d been aware of the growing use of Styrofoam and the effects that it has on our environment and our health. It might sound lame, but I became so excited to do my topic on Styrofoam and educate my class about this dangerous product.To begin with, Styrofoam is actually a trade name given by DOW Chemical Co. for a product called Polystyrene foam. Foamed polystyrene starts off as tiny beads, softened by heat, a blowing agent is used to expand the beads, and then it is shaped accordingly. 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”. These 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 come out of Styrofoam if it’s heated in a microwave. Why am I mentioning all these medical effects about Styrofoam? Because I’m sure most of you had no idea how bad this stuff actually is for you.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 57 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 5th largest creator of hazardous waste. “By volume, the amount of space used up in landfills by foamed polystyrene is between 25 and 30 percent”- this is from the Polystyrene Fact Sheet created by the Foundation for Advancement in Science and Education in Los Angeles, California. Not all Styrofoam is added to our overflowing landfills. A good percentage is often dumped into the environment as litter, where it breaks up into smaller pieces. Animals, thinking that it’s food, choke or die of clogged digestive pathways. So, not only is Styrofoam extremely harmful to our health, but it’s also bad for the environment and animals as well. You might ask yourself why I’m mentioning all these dangers of Styrofoam, and what it has to do with business. Well, being on the meal plan at Stern, both dining halls in midtown offer no choice but to use this hazardous product. My point is that most businesses and universities purchase Styrofoam, regardless of what negative effects it has. The main reason why they do so is because it is cheap. It is known that the cost of manufacturing paper cups is actually 6 times more expensive than Styrofoam cups, making it a more financially attainable choice. Even so, I think it is wrong not to offer other alternatives. Each year, Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, and in 500 years from now, the Styrofoam cup would still be sitting in a landfill. From all the money that businesses have and that get donated to universities, you would think that they might want to do something environmentally safe and purchase a product that doesn’t emit chemicals into our food. With all the Styrofoam containers, plates, cups, and bowls at the Stern dining halls, you could imagine how much chemicals and waste we add every single day. One thing that I had noticed at one of the dining halls is that they offer paper cups with recycled insulating sleeves for coffee or tea. This is a great idea and I commend whoever placed the order for this instead of the three size variety of Styrofoam cups at the other dining hall. Students at California State University recently petitioned to remove all Styrofoam from campus and they made art exhibits with used Styrofoam depicting how Styrofoam harms the environment. These students also used their local media to spread their cause. Styrofoam was not banned from the university, but their efforts were a good start. Even though businesses and universities purchase Styrofoam on a regular basis because it saves them money, I can’t help but wonder why that’s their first priority. Especially in today’s society where it seems that more people are taking greater notice of the problems of the world, why not try to change such an obvious problem. Students pay enough money as it is for school, and you might think why is it so hard to ask for a safe product in our dining halls- not something that’s extremely harmful to the environment and our health.There is a proposal to the US Congress to eliminate Styrofoam as a food packaging material that I had recently found on the internet. The document is authorized to be copied only to be sent to the Congressmen and Senators in your State. The link is http://www.comfortncolor.com/HTML/Styrofoam.pdf. I urge everyone who understands the seriousness of this product to sign this petition. Speak up to the university, and make them aware of the harmful effects this causes and demand that they change. You should refuse to use Styrofoam and tell others not to use it as well, but if you don’t do anything, you are not only killing the environment, but you are killing the animals and yourselves as well.