Styrofoam should be banned

Dear Editor,

Despite the fact we read in the national press in November 19, 2013 that “After two years of discussion, the Government of Guyana has approved a series of actions that will lead to the restriction of the use of Styrofoam products and an eventual ban in June 2014” because it is potentially hazardous to health, many restaurants, cafés and food vendors in this country are still using styrofoam containers to serve drinks and food (hot and cold).

Polystyrene contains the toxic substances styrene and benzene, suspected of containing carcinogens and neurotoxins which are hazardous to humans. Hot food and liquids actually start a partial breakdown of the styrofoam, causing some toxins to be absorbed into our bloodstream and tissue. Further, we are also advised by the medical fraternity not to drink tea with lemon, coffee with dairy cream, fruit juices, alcoholic beverages and wine from styrofoam cups. The wine could dissolve the styrene found in styrofoam containers.

Several medical journals also advise not eating oily foods from styrofoam containers. Most interesting is the information about the degradation of food that contains vitamin A (beta-carotene). In packaged foods with the addition of heat (such as microwave temperatures), vitamin A will decompose and produce m-xylene, toluene, and 2,6-dimethylnaphthalene. Toluene will aggressively dissolve polystyrene. This renders polystyrene an unsuitable package for containing or microwaving products that contain vitamin A.

Finally styrofoam containers are ubiquitous in our environment, ie, drains and gutters and are an unpleasant sight. They block drainage too. And Styrofoam is also a danger to birds, animals and fish if eaten or swallowed.

The time has come, Editor, to put a complete ban on all styrofoam products, ie, cups and plates etc, here as they also are an unpleasant sight when discarded wantonly.

Yours faithfully,

Rooplall Dudhnath