#111 Fatal Conveniences™: Styrofoam: Carcinogenic Containers

#111 Fatal Conveniences™: Styrofoam: Carcinogenic Containers

They contain your coffee, tea, take-out, BBQ food, and even your kids’ new toys – but what else do they contain? Styrofoam containers are not only destroying our health, but they’re also killing our planet. It’s time we said no more to these carcinogenic containers.

Welcome to Fatal Conveniences™. 

Styrofoam takes anywhere from 100 to one million years to break down.

That means every styrofoam container ever made sits somewhere on the planet, seeping into the ground, the waterways and wildlife ecosystems. I can’t even tell you how much this breaks my heart.

And that’s just the start of the disaster that these petroleum-based products are causing. Countless studies have deemed the main ingredients in styrofoam as a carcinogen- meaning the health issues it causes can eventually lead to cancer. And we use this stuff to store our food! And when it’s heating up, like when you pour hot beverages into it, the toxins are even more dangerous.

Listen, we vote with our dollars, guys. It’s time to give our money to companies and products that actually care about the world around us. I’m going to tell you just how harmful styrofoam containers are, and what you can do to put an end to them. Enough is enough.

Segment Breakdown:
  • [00:02:35] Polystyrene: What is it, and why is it bad?
  • [00:05:00] How heat makes it worse
  • [00:06:55] The ill-effects to your health
  • [00:09:30] Styrene as a human carcinogen
  • [00:11:10] How styrofoam is killing our planet
  • [00:12:25] How to contribute to the end of styrofoam use

Episode Transcript

Darin: It’s that time of the week for another fatal convenience. This is a bite-size segment that addresses some of society’s fatal conveniences and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of them. I define fatal conveniences as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to, tap water, shampoo, sunglasses, food. I dive into the hidden truths behind some of our everyday choices that could not only be harming us but even killing us, so let’s dive in.

Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. This is Darin Olien. This is another installment of Fatal Conveniences. Thanks for tuning in. Thanks for being an advocate for your health and your life. I understand that sometimes these fatal conveniences are, in fact, an inconvenience for you even to know about them, but in truth at the heart of it, it is to liberate you from things that may be harming you that you don’t know about. That’s the genesis of this whole thing. It is harming you without your consent, without you knowing. So my sole purpose of this is to give you information. Information equals power. Information gives you awareness to make other choices that will navigate you through life that much better. Little things added up over time create the biggest results. So we can eat good, we can exercise, we can try to get ourselves fit and everything. But if we’re getting hit and punched because of all these other toxic invisible forces, then that’s something we need to change. And that’s what this is all about. So my next fatal convenience is styrofoam. Yes. It pains me to even realize that people still are pouring hot teas and coffees into styrofoam cups for example. What the hell. Cup of noodles, take out food, picnics, then we have these styrofoam plates, and also styrofoam and packaging, which we have to interact with. All of these things are harming you, as well as our precious Mother Earth. The primary ingredient in this is called polystyrenes. And styrene is where we’re really going to focus on the side effects aspect. In 1839, styrene was discovered accidentally in Germany, by Edward Simon, and he was isolating the substance from a natural resin and discovered this compound. He didn’t even understand what it was and then organic chemist, Hermann Staudinger, realized Simon’s discovery, it’s comprised of a long chain of styrene molecules, which was basically a plastic Polymer. And now we’re back to plastic. Are you starting to get this? So in 1937, Dow Chemical Company introduced the first polystyrene products to the US. In 1951, they developed a patent and expanded polystyrene into styrofoam. And Dow now owns and holds the trademark in about 95 countries. Dow Chemical typically sends out 25 to 30 cease and desist letters annually for high profile misuse of the term styrofoam. So Dow Chemical, yes, owns the term, the trademark or whatever it is styrofoam. So polystyrene, or in this case, the active compound in styrofoam or EPS foam is 95% air and 5% plastic. Over 100 North American as well as numerous European and Asian cities have banned polystyrene food packaging all together due to the negative impacts on human and the environment. So that’s great. So this EPS is heat resistant, which makes it convenient. It does not conduct heat itself. So you can pour these hot liquids, and it’s not going to burn your hand. So that’s where that bloody convenience came in for these damn coffee and teacups, right? And you don’t require these cardboard sleeves over the drink. So yeah, of course, it’s convenient, super lightweight, and relatively sturdy, certainly for packaging of food and beverages. And in the environment, EPS is essentially inert and stable. So here are all these conveniences of this thing, but it’s actually sanitary in terms of it doesn’t allow for a lot of microbes and bacteria to hold up on it. But the misunderstanding with the styrofoam or this polystyrene foam is it was microwave safe. It’s never been microwave safe. It’s never been heat safe or wrapping our food or liquids or leftovers. So what is styrene? So, you’ve got styrofoam filled full of polystyrene, a bunch of styrene. So, styrene is a naturally occurring chemical that is also a byproduct of petroleum production. There we go back to petroleum. So again, petroleum wrapping food and liquids. This styrene is used to make polystyrene foam, commonly known as styrofoam, and plastics which can be found in a myriad of everyday objects. And from water filter systems to Legos even and Home Insulation. And like I said before, cups and cutlery, and plates and all of this stuff. In high concentrations, styrene is known to cause ill effects. Okay, so we’re going to break these down. The consequences of long-term and steady exposure to styrene remain a concern of prominent public health advocacy groups because again, it’s another chemical in our environment that has not have been long-term tested and we are experimenting on ourselves. So let’s just understand polystyrene or styrene is a commercially manufactured product from petroleum containing the monomer, styrene, as well as the chemical benzene. You have heard this come up in many products connected to hormonal disruption and cancer.

Styrene is suspected carcinogen itself, neurotoxin, and potentially threatens human health. And again, we have all this in the show notes. Benzene, already a known carcinogen, and here’s how permeated it is in the environment. In a 1986 study by the EPA, styrene was detected in the fat tissue of every man, woman, and child tested. Styrene was also found in 100% of the human nursing milk samples tested. And that was a German report that I have in the show notes. Several adverse health effects have been attributed to styrene. Some studies have conducted that ingesting and that’s getting it through contact, getting it wrapped around our food, so any interaction with styrene develops concentration and may cause fatigue, irritation, a decrease in concentration ability. It also has been linked to increased levels of chromosomal damage, abnormal pulmonary function, and cancer in workers at polystyrene and styrene plants. This is by the NIH. So let’s just break down. Here’s the episode in three words. Styrene is toxic. Styrofoam is toxic. In June 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services added styrene to its list of materials that are anticipated to be carcinogenic. Now, do they do anything about it? No, they just add it to the list. Do they take it out of our environment? No, that is on us again to do, which is why I’m doing these episodes so that you can be an advocate for yourself, for your life, and for your health and the health of your children and your family. When these EPS foam containers are used in the microwave with food, the chemical styrene can leach into the food and beverages and by the way, that is heat. Anytime you add heat to the styrene, it’s gonna leach into those things, into the food, into the liquids. In 2014, the National Research Council in the US reviewed the evidence and conducted that styrene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. So it comes from all of these different agencies and a study in 2010 in six European countries, who reported significantly elevated risks of B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and for follicular lymphoma in relation to styrene exposure.

So again, there are more studies here that I’m gonna keep you from but basically, this EPS, this styrene, this benzene is also all known carcinogens. The major effect of benzene for long-term exposure is in the blood. Long-term exposure means more than a year. So anytime you’re interacting and using, drinking from this stuff, and being exposed to this packaging material and eating off of plates like this, that means a long-term exposure is causing infinitely greater episodes and effects and that is bone marrow, decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and suppression of the immune system. So again, so many of these chemicals are suppressing the immune system and also suppressing and changing the hormonal system. That’s what we need to be aware of. So EPS in the environment, so we need to also push back on using styrofoam and using packaging and all the stuff, which is why I love Footprint, the company that I’m an advisor on, footprintus.com. They’re one of the largest alternatives to packaging, and single-use plastic alternatives using fibers and cellulose. That’s why we need to support companies doing good things because this styrofoam is not biodegradable. Polystyrene is biologically inert. Microorganisms can’t break it down. And check this out.

The estimated range for any of this to break down is between 100 to 1 million years. This is not me making this up. This is from experts. All right. So it’s quite the range, but it’s not good for the environment. And the problem is it’s one of those things, styrofoam, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and particulates. And then those chemicals break down and toxins leach out. And then that gets into the food systems and the oceans and everything else and causes a lot of problems. And then in 1980, a report on solid waste named that polystyrene manufacturing process is the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste in the US. Now that is alarming. I bet you didn’t know that and neither did I. The use and disposal of this product, energy consumption, greenhouse, gas effect, and total environmental effects considered polystyrene as the second-highest negative environmental impact sitting behind aluminum, according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, that’s at calrecycle.org. Okay.

So again, pouring liquid into a coffee cup of styrofoam is such a bad idea. And those plates, don’t buy styrofoam and push back on those companies that you’re buying from consistently like off of Amazon, you’re getting packaging, write a letter to those companies to say, hey, listen, try alternative packaging, and then support those companies in doing better things. We have numbers on our side, people. We have numbers on our side. Avoid using “disposable” because it’s actually the opposite because it doesn’t break down anywhere. Avoid using styrofoam, polystyrene plastic plates, food containers, all of that stuff because it’s hanging out in the landfills for a million years. Instead, use reusable utensils, dinnerware made from bamboo and glass, and ceramic. You may pay a little bit, but you know what, if you can reuse it, do it. And think of it this way, you’re using that money to say hey, company that’s healthier for me and my family, and the environment, I’m voting for you. So I’m putting this extra dollar of my hard-earned money to buy these better products. That is my vote. That is what I’m doing because I care for the health of my children, for the health of my planet. Those are something that you can do, and that is powerful. And also if you’re not sure of plastic that’s made of polystyrene or styrofoam, it has the number six within the recycling number. So if you flip it upside down, and see that recycling number that you never knew what those numbers are, six will tell you that it has polystyrene in it. So before you buy it, make sure it doesn’t have number six, so that will keep you from that. And if you are using food, hey, by class, and you can reuse it over and over and over and over and over again without plastic, petroleum, polystyrene, benzene leaching into your food. Does that sound good? Styrofoam disrupts your entire hormonal system and pushes you towards cancer. It’s not a good idea. All you’re looking for is food storage and reheating food, ceramic, glass. Perfect, right? And just to remind you, when you’re reheating food, don’t use the microwave. Found that fatal convenience a really bad idea, slamming the molecules from the inside out, creating some distorted molecular food, which is not recognized as food anymore on a molecular level. So, again, listen to the other fatal convenience on microwaves. And don’t reheat your food using a microwave. Okay, so that’s styrofoam. I get that many of you are probably not using this, but it’s the thing you need to look out for when you’re in those little inconvenient places of your might be driving on a camping trip, and going and getting a coffee at 7/11 and all they have is a styrofoam cup, don’t use it, buy a thermos, pour it in there, do something else. If you’re on a plane, don’t use the styrofoam cup. If you’re having a party, don’t buy styrofoam plates. Not a good idea. It’s a cancer plate. It’s a cancer cup. And also, don’t be playing with packaging. Don’t let your kids play with styrofoam packaging when you’re breaking apart, whatever it is that you bought this week. Okay, so styrofoam people, it’s trademarked by Dow Chemical. They don’t have your best interest in mind. I do. You do because now you’re an advocate for yourself and your life because guess what, we have to create the life that we want now more than ever. There are things happening in the world that are not great. And we need to be strong, our immune system strong, be clear and sovereign within the choices we’re making, and be healthy. Bring back health. Let me say that again. Bring back health. That’s our conversation. That’s the world we need in every level. I love you all.

Darin: Thanks for tuning in everyone. I hope that left you feeling inspired to take a closer look at the everyday choices you’re making and how they could be impacting your health and even the planet. If you want to learn more about life’s fatal conveniences, head over to fatalconveniences.com. You can sign up for the exclusive access to Fatal Conveniences episodes, news, insights, and more. And all this great stuff gets sent each week straight to your inbox, making it really easy. Now, that’s a convenience without the negative side effects. It only takes a few seconds to join. Just fill in the form and take that amazing step towards making better choices. Remember, small changes can have a big impact. So, keep diving my friends, keep diving. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the interview, I released earlier on the week, here’s what you missed:

Dandapani: I realized a few years ago that opportunities are not opportunities if they’re not aligned with your purpose. So if something comes up, the first question I ask myself is, is it aligned with my purpose? Understanding that finite energy, finite time, that those are my finite resources and finite financial resources. So I want to channel those three things to things that are defined by my purpose in order to manifest them knowing that by living a purpose-focused life, I lived my best life. And as I get uplifted as a result of that, I uplift everyone around me.

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