Why You Don’t Want to Use StyroFoam Dishes This Summer (or Ever!)

 

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It is finally summer fair and barbeque season. Yippee! However, I am reminded how often I see food being handed out on styrofoam plates and containers and why this is should be of concern to everyone.

I have always hated the feel of styrofoam cups on my lips so I started avoiding it years ago. I have since learned it contains some serious toxic compounds which can leach out into food. So shouldn’t we all be avoiding it? The challenge is that it is still so widely used.  As it’s likely you too will run into it this season, best to know WHY and HOW  to avoid styrofoam.

What is styrofoam??

  • Styrofoam is a trademarked name for an extruded foam made from polystyrene
  • Polystyrene is a synthetic compound derived from petroleum, and contains toxic compounds such as benzene. It is a lightweight, insulating material that is used in many formats in industry…unfortunately including disposable dish ware.

Studies have shown that the styrene leaches out of the styrofoam and into our bodies when we use styrofoam cups and plates.  In fact, a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found just that when the food (or drink) inside was hot. If it makes you feel any better, it was also found that styrene didn’t leach out of foam egg cartons, which are usually refrigerated. so we can assume the most harm to human health comes when the styrofoam is heated.

However the direct impact on human health shouldn’t be our only concern. Styrofoam has become an acute environmental issue. The Environmental Protection Agency released a report (1986) listing the polystyrene manufacturing process  as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. Fifty-seven toxic chemical byproducts are released during the manufacturing process of polystyrene, including benzene. Just think of the workers who manufacture it if nothing else.

As well, styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose. It makes up 25-30% of our world’s landfills AND has become a major source of marine pollution. And even though styrofoam is no longer manufactured with CFC (‘chlorofluorocarbon’ the famous ozone depleting chemical), it still uses hydrofluorocarbons linked to depleting the ozone layer and affecting global warming.

How to Avoid Styrofoam:

  • Look for the number 6. Polystyrene foam should be easy to spot by looking for a 6 inside the chasing arrow (aka ‘the mobius loop) symbol.  Unfortunately, polystyrene is also used in non-foam food containers, including clear-plastic clamshells and coffee-cup lids.
  • Don’t frequent restaurants or take out places that offer this type of food container.
  • BE PREPARED and take your own environmentally-friendly food and drink containers where you can to picnics, BBQs and fairs.

And remember that even though many jurisdictions are now trying to recycle styrofoam.. it is not a good option to use in the first place. So many chemicals used in its production affecting workers and our environment. We can all do better for the sake of our health, other people, AND our environment. So get yourself some stainless or glass re-usable containers and bamboo plates.

This post was inspired by the work of SaferChemicalsHealthyFamilies who work tirelessly to inform people of hidden toxins in their consumer goods….for which we should all be thankful 🙂

 

The Warrior Mom circa 2013

I gave birth to two fabulous, healthy little girls in the last 8 years and found out the hard way that common everyday household products contain harsh, synthetic ingredients that in many cases, are not tested for safety. So for my family’s sake I have decided that I MUST be a catalyst for change.

I now question everything and I research to make more informed decisions.  And in the hope I might help someone else to avoid the experiences I have had, I blog. Most recently I joined the blogging team at Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. I am so impressed with the fabulous work Safer Chemicals is doing, I am beyond thrilled to be a part!

My personal interest in toxic chemicals started with daughter’s severe reaction to synthetic sunscreen.  It was Canada Day 2007. Her tiny body swelled and became beet red after I applied harsh toxic chemicals to her body called ‘children’s sunscreen‘.  She was two.

People stared at our usually beautiful daughter that day in the medical waiting room. She was distorted and looked rather frightful. Medical authorities said simply it was a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.  Any parent who has been through this, no matter what the exact cause or exact result, will tell you it is a life-changing experience.

I reacted by becaming a warrior mom. I set out to figure out what had happened and why and how it could be avoided in future? I found out that petroleum-based chemicals I had studied in University that were polluting waterways and affecting marine life were in my kids products!! And many are not tested for safety.  Scientists are now studying the health costs of using these cheap, industrial commonly-used chemicals.  The results are alarming… many common household chemicals are suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Shame on the huge corporations that continue to manufacture products for kids peppered with such toxic garbage.

Even if you have never considered toxins may be in your kids products, take a minute to read your own product labels. Make google your best friend and research, research, research. This will help you to be armed to make informed decisions. If your child hasn’t had an outward reaction as mine did you are fortunate. Trust me when I say that your research will confirm lots of nasty chems commonly used in everyday household products. Best to know these can be silently harming your children.

Who is surprised that moms are leading the way in demanding change?  I have since found that I am one small voice in a group of many moms trying to educate other moms and to ultimately make huge corporations change their ways for the sake of ALL of our children. Some note-worthy moms are moving mountains to speak up against environmental causes of childhood illnesses that plague us in 2013.  From autismfood sensitivities, life threatening allergies to pediatric cancers.The stats on increasing incidence of all of these is major cause for concern.

If you have ever wondered how successful moms are at affecting change, know that there have been some fabulous success stories of moms causing BIG BUSINESS to make healthful change. Such outstanding work! Keep on going sisters there is loads of work to still to be done!

If you know a mom or a mom to be, who may not know this info, please pass this post on to her.  Post something about this subject on your Facebook page or tweet about it. And if you feel so inclined, start a petition, sign a petition, or speak to other moms about this subject. AND speak with your wallet. Stop buying and they will stop making. If we don’t speak up, industry will most likely never choose to change.

Some of my favourite resources and some of the major catalysts for change on both sides of the 49th parallel are Environmental Defence Canada, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Women’s Voices for the Earth,  and one of my all-time fave fellow warrior moms, Lori at Groovy Green Livin….I am inspired and impressed with all these people’s efforts everyday on behalf of children and families everywhere. All are worth a ‘follow’.

Feel free to share any personal comments or stories with me.  I would love to hear from you!