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How do I know if something is made of polystyrene?

Materials made of PS are marked with Recycling Code #6. StyrofoamTM products such as cups or plates will be labeled or described as expanded polystyrene, polystyrene, foam, or #6EPS. Other polystyrene products include clear or solid, but flexible, plastic cups, lids, straws, and utensils.

What are the potential health concerns associated with polystyrene foam?

Over fifty chemical byproducts are released during the manufacturing of polystyrene, contaminating the air, water and communities that live near these facilities. Polystyrene is made up of multiple units of styrene. Styrene is believed to be a carcinogen (cancer causing) by the Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/styrene.pdf) Exposure to styrene can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, the upper respiratory tract, and the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic exposure results in more severe effects including depression, headaches, fatigue, weakness, hearing loss, and disrupted kidney function.

The manufacturing of polystyrene requires the use of hydrocarbons such as styrene and benzene. These hydrocarbons are released into the air and react with nitrogen oxides to produce ground-level ozone, a hazardous air pollutant. Ground-level ozone can impair lung function and lead to respiratory illness.

The disposal of polystyrene is also hazardous. Polystyrene does not break down and is often burned to be disposed of. However, burning polystyrene releases styrene gas into the air and produces a mix of toxicants that can impair the nervous system.

Is polystyrene regulated?

Currently, all bans on polystyrene are at the city or county level. The following list includes a growing number of cities that have decided to ban polystyrene foam in foodservice products, including take-out containers, bowls, plates, trays, cups, and cutlery.

New York, NY
Takoma Park, MD
Seattle, WA
Washington DC
Miami Beach , FL
Freeport, ME
Portland, ME
Nantucket (City and county), MA
Minneapolis, MN
Portland, OR
Baltimore, MD
San Francisco, CA



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