Do the pros of Styrofoam outweigh the cons?
Styrofoam, also known as Polystyrene is extracted from mainly petroleum-based plastics. Styrofoam is the brand name of Polystyrene. Styrene (a colourless oily liquid, is one of the big building blocks of Polystyrene. The chemical formula of Polystyrene is C6H5CH=CH2. There are many health risks associated with Polystyrene. It is a very commonly used product in everyday life. It can be found in takeout boxes, egg cartons, used as a filler in shipment boxes, and housing insulation. Polystyrene is also one of the top 5 largest creator of harmful waste.
Styrofoam can possibly be very harmful if ingested, it can become especially dangerous when heated in microwaves. Styrofoam mainly threatens the reproductive systems in humans. Also, “The use of hydrocarbons in polystyrene foam manufacture releases the hydrocarbons into the air at ground level; there, combined with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight, they form tropospheric ozone – a serious air pollutant at ground level.” (EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)) Also, according to the EPA people who exercise outside in areas of low quality ozone have increased risks of reduced functioning of internal organs such as lungs, which can lead to chest pain, coughing and sometimes more serious side effects like pulmonary congestion, which could lead to respiratory failure. How does such a serious thing happen, you might ask? According to the EPA, hydrocarbons in polystyrene are released into the air (when at ground level) and when combined with nitrogen oxide, in the presence of sunlight is what poses a serious problem to the ozone. Polystyrene is a very dangerous air pollutant. However, Polystyrene can be beneficial in some aspects, Polystyrene is recyclable, it is clean to use, it’s less expensive, it can be used as a great insulator, and it can somewhat withstand bacterial growth which is important because polystyrene is found in many food packaging, and if it were to create harmful bacteria in foods, that could pose a serious problem for consumers.
All in all, the cons outweigh the pros in Polystyrene because of the environmental and personal effects of long-term exposure in factories, etc. The ozone is already experiencing major difficulties, and Polystyrene is a huge contributor to that. An alternative to the harmful Polystyrene, is Bioplastic. Bioplastic is made from renewable resources like corn, vegetable oil, and sometimes corn starch, instead of petroleum-based products like Polystyrene. Bioplastic is biodegradable, and decompose in landfills. Essentially, Polystyrene is not a great product health, environmentally, and even has a great environmentally sound alternative to replace it.