Styrofoam has become such an accepted way to serve langar whether it be foam cups or plates that people often don’t stop to realize that it is made from polystyrene.
Polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic. In fact, Styrofoam is the trade name for polystyrene. It gained popularity because it is lightweight, offers good insulation properties that keep products cold or hot, and keeps things safe during the shipping process without adding weight. While there are some positive aspects of the material, the years have shown that Styrofoam also has harmful effects.
Why is it harmful?
Polystyrene foam cups contain styrene – a chemical compound that is increasingly suspect. In the 12th edition of its Report on Carcinogens, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) stated that styrene is “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen,” and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified styrene as a “possible human carcinogen.”
However, in spite of these classifications, polystyrene foam continues to be widely used for coffee cups, egg cartons, and salad boxes as well as disposable bowls, plates and trays.
It carries a host of other adverse health effects like:
- Irritation and mucous secretion from eyes and nose.
- Increased levels of fatigue and decreased concentration ability.
- Increased levels of abnormal pulmonary function and cancer.
- Disrupts normal hormone functions resulting in thyroid problems and other hormone related problems.
In the year 1988, Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education had published a survey which found styrene (one molecule form of polystyrene) present in the human fatty tissue. It was discovered that styrene can cause neurotoxic symptoms.
Beyond that, styrene also has been associated with respiratory problems among workers exposed to it as well as with “styrene sickness,” a combination of headache, fatigue and feelings of drunkenness. Styrene causes lung tumors in several strains of mice.
The best option for Gurdwaras is to switch to stainless steel ware which can save money and doesn’t expose man to harmful chemicals.