Styrene is probably cancerogenic for humans

logo_smallI was surprised when I found the following in the Lancet, a medical magazine. It states that: ” The Working Group classified styrene in Group 2A, “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on limited evidence in humans and sufficient evidence in experimental animals for carcinogenicity.”  This is a new classification since March 2018 because the older one gives a less dramatic one.

whale1Like described in this recent paper and this older paper, styrene is used to produce polystyrene and the latter one is foamed to expanded (EPS) or extruded (XPS) polystyrene. I don´t believe that XPS or EPS or cancerogenic during the use as thermal insulation but disposal is not straightforward.

Indeed, the landfill method is not a good method because these products are reduced spontaneously to small particles, which are not biogredable and end up in all kind of organisms and also later on in humans. Combustion has to be done above 1000°C to avoid all kind of flue gases while standard incinerators are working at 850°C.

For that reason, a lot of American cities have already banned the use of polytsyrene  for the following reasons:

  • It does not biodegrade. It may break into small pieces, even minuscule pieces. But the smaller EPS gets, the harder it is to clean up.
  • It is made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Those chemicals may leach if they come in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. Yes, they keep your coffee hot – but they may also add an unwanted dose of toxins to your drink.
  • Animals sometimes eat it. Turtles and fish seem to mistake EPS for food, and that can kill them. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.
  • It can’t be recycled. Some commercial mailing houses may accept packing peanuts, but for the most part community recycling centers do not accept throwaway foam food containers

To me it is clear. EPS and XPS are not needed in the building industry and can be replaced by cellular glass. GLAPOR cellular glass is in that case the most ecologic alternative.

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