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This 4th of July Stick to Paper — Foam Containers Officially Linked to Cancer


polystyrene You may want to think twice about drinking coffee from a foam cup or eating hot food from a foam takeout container. The National Research Council is warning that styrene, the key chemical component of foam products, may cause cancer.

The panel of 10 experts determined that styrene was “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” a designation that means there may be alternative explanations or contributing factors, the report says. This labeling doesn’t implicate a substance as strongly as the “known to be a carcinogen” designation. However, the panel said there was more than enough evidence to conclude styrene causes cancer in animals and “limited but credible” evidence that it causes cancer in people.

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This report comes on the heels of a study published in Food Additives and Contaminants that found at least 170 chemicals with hazardous effects are legally used in food packaging and processing in the U.S. and Europe. Styrene was listed as one of the chemicals of concern. The authors of the research said that while many of the chemicals are restricted in toys and electronics, the substances are not regulated well in food containers.

Industry leaders have contended for decades that styrene products are safe. Yet some health and environmental groups have serious reservations about them, and they have been trying to remove the products from contact with the food supply for some time. The groups are especially troubled about hot food and liquids because the heat can cause the styrene to leach out from the container.

Styrene Foam’s Harmful Effects

Some studies suggest styrene harms white blood cells, which may raise the risk of developing lymphoma or leukemia. Other research indicates exposure to the chemical increases the likelihood of pancreatic and esophageal cancer in workers who manufacture styrene products.

In addition to being detrimental to health, foam products are harmful for the environment, as they require 500 years to degrade. Styrene foam also contaminates the soil and water and may be consumed by fish, birds and other animals.

How to Avoid Foam

Since these products are ubiquitous in modern life, being used in fast food eateries, truck stops and restaurants, it may seem impossible to avoid them. Actually, reducing your usage of foam containers isn’t so hard if you preplan. Care2 provides the following recommendations for lowering your exposure to styrene:

  • When you buy a cup of coffee from a fast food restaurant, bring your own mug.
  • Pack a mug in your carryon bag when traveling by air.
  • Avoid takeout eateries that serve hot soup in a foam container as well as vending machines that dispense hot coffee in a foam cup.
  • When having a party at home, use paper plates or reusable plates rather than foam plates, but opt for the ones that don’t have a plastic coating.
  • If you want to take home leftovers from a restaurant, bring your own food storage container or ask the server to put the food in aluminum foil.
  • When you shop at the supermarket, avoid buying soups and other foods requiring microwaving that are packaged in a foam bowl. Once the soup is heated, the styrene will leach out of the bowl into the soup.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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3 responses to “This 4th of July Stick to Paper — Foam Containers Officially Linked to Cancer”

  1. George Morgan says:

    I guess we should just not eat or drink ; and that would solve a whole bunch’ of issues ‘ ….. l o l .

  2. Sue says:

    This is all good to know. Most of the poultry, meat, etc. that is purchased from the grocery store comes in styrene (foam trays) containers which is kind of hard to avoid. However; I don’t heat up anything in styrene because I thought that styrene breaks down when heat is applied to it.

    Thank you for this health warning about “man made foam”

  3. JosephG says:

    I discovered this in the mid-1970s due to the fact that I had an allergic reaction every time I consumed any food or drink that came packaged in polystyrene. I am surprised it has taken this long for the “experts” to come up with this finding.