Is Styrofoam Causing Lethal Lunches? | Teen Ink

Is Styrofoam Causing Lethal Lunches?

December 10, 2007
By Anonymous

Styrofoam is derived from polystyrene, which contains styrene, hence the name ‘styro’-foam. According to both Vanity Fair’s green issue and National Geographic’s, styrene poses a potential health threat-especially to young children. “Studies suggest that styrene may act like the hormone estrogen in the body, and therefore might disrupt normal hormone functions and possibly affect reproduction.” Styrene mimics the body’s natural hormones when absorbed into the body and throws off the body’s ordinary hormone levels. “Styrene is also considered a possible human carcinogen.” A carcinogen is a cancer-causing substance. So not only may Styrofoam mess with hormone levels, it can cause a deadly, incurable disease as well. The absorption of styrene into the body increases when the food is hot or high in fat.

Nurse Fran says “knowing the chemicals [in the Styrofoam], and knowing that Styrofoam is not biodegradable, it may be a health concern”. By drinking her daily coffee from a ceramic mug, and not a Styrofoam cup, she has eliminated not only the personal health risk, but is protecting the environment from a substance which takes hundreds of years to decompose. “Girls are getting their period earlier and earlier” (Nurse Fran) which has been attributed to altered hormone levels. Don’t think that only girls are affected; “precocious puberty and undescended testes” (Vanity Fair 2007) have shown up in young boys due to problematic hormones changes. However “unless the school has the money to become green, it’s up to the individual to protect themselves against such hazards.” Gene Ramos (of Gene’s Cuisine) asserts that “health is more important than money”. Unfortunately, money is still a realistic concern. Change “might be possible” but only “if the school approves it”.
The real debate in this issue is between health and money. Allen Hunt, the school’s financial advisor, says the school “should consider this issue immediately”. He does not believe that paper cups and plates could cost much more than Styrofoam (1000 cups cost $14.29 and 1000 plates cost $30). According to, 1000 paper plates cost $29.55 and 1000 paper cups cost $70. However, paper cups would be unnecessary if everyone drank bottled water, milk from the paper cartons, and coffee from ceramic mugs. “The students pay [to come to MCDS], so if the students don’t want Styrofoam we can get rid of Styrofoam.”

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