Letter to the Editor

Applauds Polystyrene ban in town

Dear editor:

I am writing to applaud Winthrop for passing its ban on Styrofoam and other forms of expanded polystyrene (“Styrofoam regulation ban goes into effect in 2017,” July 29).  The problems with polystyrene are manifold. Although polystyrene food products may pose a negligible threat when they are kept at cold temperatures, warm foods (such as soup or coffee or microwaved leftovers), and especially those with high alcohol or fat content, change the equation.  In these conditions, styrene — the major component of polystyrene — leaches into the food, and styrene is, according to a 2011 classification by the National Toxicology Program, a neurotoxin and “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”  Chemical industry lobbyists might argue that “reasonably anticipated” is not “proven,” but considering the stakes, why take chances?

In addition to its health effects, polystyrene is the source of much avoidable waste, and is a major source of litter, clogging landfills and polluting marine environments.  Polystyrene is composed of fossil fuels and its production (under highly toxic conditions), distribution, and disposal contributes to global warming.  When polystyrene breaks down, it displaces plankton in the food chain and circulates forever.  This is why 19 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and scores of other municipalities nationwide, have passed regulations to protect their citizens and our environment from the harmful effects of polystyrene.  I hope that more towns in our state follow Winthrop’s brave example.

Brad Verter

Director, Mass Green Network

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