Effects of Styrofoam/polystyrene/plastic on the health and the environment

January 24, 2018

Polystyrene is the major material used to make disposable cups and containers around us, but it poses both health and environmental risks. Styrofoam which is the popular brand of disposable product material is made from plastic polystyrene. Styrene which is used to make polystyrene is a contaminant that is found in every styrofoam package. Because Styrofoam products are very common, most individuals are clueless about the fact that it has effects both on the health and the environment. The following are the health and environmental effects of styrofoam products.

  • Styrene can build up in the tissues of humans

Polystyrene products usually contain residual styrene which then leaks into the hot drink or food that is inside. This will eventually lead to styrene build up in the tissues of the body and cause several health issues such as fatigue, nervousness, difficulty in sleeping, haematological problems and cytogenetic problems. Styrene is known to have carcinogenic effects, and several research is going into if it is a cause of cancer in humans. High amounts of styrene in the human body can also cause nervous breakdowns, menstrual problems in women and metabolic disorders in pregnant women.

  • Polystyrene is not biodegradable

It can take a minimum of 400 years for polystyrene products to decompose and this is posing a serious threat to the environment. This, therefore, means that landfill will be packed with polystyrene products as they cannot be recycled or decomposed easily. The breakdown process of Styrofoam products is not environmentally friendly as it involves depriving the styrofoam of water and oxygen.

  • It creates hazardous waste

The process of manufacturing polystyrene poses a threat to the environment as it is a major source of hazardous waste. Polystyrene production leads to high energy consumption as well as the greenhouse effect. Polystyrene is made from a resource that is heavily polluting, and it has effects on the ozone layer depletion. Polystyrene manufacturing process also has a great effect on global warming and research proves that the effect is higher than that of carbon monoxide. When polystyrene is burnt, it releases carbon monoxide to the environment which poses severe health risks.

  • Polystyrene is a major cause of land and marine pollution

Because the use of polystyrene products is rampant, there is also the problem of pollution. However, these products cannot be biodegraded so they just stay in the same form for years which is a threat to marine life and the environment at large.

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