Styrofoam: The crunchy killer

We have a great deal of eco-friendly alternatives at NSU. We have tons of recycling bins placed around campus. We use plastic recyclable plates, to–go boxes, and Greens Etc. uses paper boxes as food containers. But, it’s the cups that are the problem. One of the unhealthiest ways to store your food is Styrofoam. It is not just an environmental issue anymore. Styrofoam can potentially affect your health.

Eating on campus is something I don’t normally get to do. It is usually reserved only for lunchtime, and if I’m not at the West End Deli, I tend to venture off campus. Forget going to the UC; I can’t wait that long in a line. However, I was on campus late the other night, finishing up an assignment, and I decided to venture forth and find something to eat in the food court. Waiting in line for my amazing burrito (incorrectly called a wrap), I witnessed something that up until now had not realized.

I stared with amazement as someone, clearly exasperated, had come downstairs from the RecPlex to get some water. Now, I don’t know how you could forget a water bottle, or how using a water fountain seemed unnecessary in that condition, but it startled me as the man behind the counter gave this guy a large cup full of ice water. Sounds awesome, right? Way better than the water fountain, I would think, and you can carry it. But wait, the cup. It’ was a big 32–ounce Styrofoam cup.

Now, I’m not some big eco–minded individual here to tell you to recycle, but at least consider some things about Styrofoam next time you use a Styrofoam product.

In 1972, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency found potentially toxic styrene residue in a majority of Americans who were sampled in a study. In 1986, 100 percent of all the fat tissue surveyed had styrene in them. That’s pretty gross, but it gets worse — researchers found that Styrofoam cups lose their weight after being used and even while in use. This means that the styrene is getting into your food and drinks as you eat and drink them. That’s disgusting.

Our generation has been using Styrofoam products since we were born. In the 1970s, Dow Chemicals invented Styrofoam for use as insulation. It was made with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to inflate the styrene into an insulator that gets used for hot and cold foods and drinks. Because of the ban of CFCs in 1989, they now use carbon dioxide and pentane. Pentane is a highly flammable chemical that’s contributes to smog. Which is pretty gross too.

The basic gist of it is a bunch of nastiness gets compressed into a cocktail of chemicals, then its inflated with more chemicals and then we put food on it. Thumbs up to The Food and Drug Administration, who do not acknowledge it as being a threat.

McDonald’s was actually one of the first major companies that switched from Styrofoam in 1989 to paper, which is still being used today. However, even though the Dunkin’ Donuts on campus uses paper cups, Dunkin’ Donuts is the leader in Styrofoam waste by using more than 30 billion cups a year for its hot beverages. We help contribute to that number on campus each time you dispense yourself a cup of caffeine goodness.

There is no need to panic. I’m sure you won’t die if you drink from a Styrofoam cup or accidently put a can in the trash, but, at least, consider your own health while making an easy eco-minded decision as you go about your daily life.

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