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Polystyrene is made with styrene, a chemical which can damage the brain and central nervous system. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), styrene is a possible human carcinogen. Acute exposure to styrene may cause gastrointestinal effects, mucous membrane irritation, and eye irritation. Chronic exposure to styrene in humans, according to the EPA, can result in headache, fatigue, weakness, depression, hearing loss, and peripheral neuropathy. In animal studies, styrene has also been found to adversely affect the blood, liver, kidney, and stomach.
- Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
EPA information:

A 1988 survey published by the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education found styrene in human fatty tissue with a frequency of 100% at levels from 8 to 350 nanograms/gram (ng/g). The 350 ng/g level is 1/3 of levels known to cause neurotoxic symptoms.

According to a Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long term exposure to small quantities of styrene can cause neurotoxic (fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping), hematological (low platelet and hemoglobin values), cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities), and carcinogenic effects. In 1987, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France, reclassified styrene from a Groups 3 (not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity) to a Group 2B substance (possibly carcinogenic to humans)
- Web Resources for Environmental Justice Activists

NYTimes, 10/29/08
Panel Rebukes F.D.A. on Plastic Safety
A scientific panel has issued a blistering report against the Food and Drug Administration, saying the agency ignored important evidence in reassuring consumers about the safety of the controversial chemical bisphenol-A.

NYTimes, 5/4/09
Well: Earlier Puberty in European Girls

A 15-year study of young girls in Denmark add to a growing body of evidence that the timing of puberty is changing, possibly related to environmental exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body.

Bio-Medicine, 6/1/05
Plastic to Cause Breast Cancer

development to cause breast cancer in adult life.

Children's Environmental Health Network, 1/09
How a common plastic ingredient may affect obesity and related diseases.

Grinning Planet
Polystyrene Foam Cups & Containers, Styrene Migration, and Your Health

Environment and Human Health, Inc.
The plastics problem is growing in scale and complexity due to a collision of factors, including government neglect of the importance of endocrine disruption; the explosive growth of the U.S. and international plastics industry; the absence of any plastic ingredient and source labeling requirements; nearly complete recycling failure for PVC and polycarbonate plastics; environmental contamination of air, water, soils, oceans, fish and wildlife; nearly universal human exposure to BPA and DEHP from food and beverages in high income nations; the dependence of the plastics industry on petroleum; and government failure to require health and environmental testing prior to chemical production, sale, and disposal. Collectively, these pose a serious challenge to the environment and human health.

Cracking the Autism Riddle: Toxic Chemicals, A Serious Suspect in the Autism Outbreak
The presence of EDCs in women of child-bearing age is especially worrisome. That is because there is evidence that even minuscule amounts of these chemicals -- levels commonly present in a woman's body -- may disturb fetal brain development during highly sensitive periods of neural development known as windows of vulnerability.

The US National Toxicology Program has stated that it is concerned about the "effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.", Polystyrene & Health Homepage

Environmental Health Perspectives, Bisphenol A at Environmentally Relevant Doses Inhibits Adiponectin Release from Human Adipose Tissue Explants and Adipocytes


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When Debby Lee Cohen was gathering trays
from school cafeterias for her Parson's project,
"No Tray Left Behind", she noticed that many
kids were carving their trays with
their forks while eating.
Children sometimes scrape their lunch trays,
either to finish their food or just for fun.
By doing this, it is possible they may ingest
some of the chemical styrene. We, as
Environmental Pediatricians, advise use of
food containers made from materials other than
styrene or choose, as some schools have, to
remove school trays from cafeterias altogether.

- Mount Sinai Pediatric
Environmental Health Specialty Unit

This is an image of a child digging into
her tray with her plastic spork while eating.
Child digging with spork
School districts in LA, NYC, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Orlando, plan to use their collective clout
2.5 million daily meals
$530 million annually

to make wholesome food a national standard. The districts are also aiming for more eco-friendly practices — replacing polystyrene and plastic
with biodegradable trays and flatware
New York Times Headline Mt Sinai Warning Ban Styrofoam Plan