Foam is Safe Despite Confusion Over New California Decision

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) now counts styrene as a material that could cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Styrene is a liquid used to make the solid material polystyrene, also known as foam. Polystyrene — an inert solid plastic that makes up products across numerous industries — is 100 percent safe.

The American Chemistry Council recently clarified this point by differentiating between the two. Polystyrene, which is often used in food-service packaging, is not harmful for use and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has held that to be true for more than 50 years, according to Mike Levy, senior director of ACC’s Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group.

Styrene and polystyrene have completely different properties. Once the styrene is in its end product as polystyrene, its properties are entirely safe for humans and do not pose a risk of cancer. In fact, the material is used to package foods for schools, fast-food restaurants, hospitals, and at smaller food-service establishments. It is also found in many appliances and household items. For small business owners, the product is especially important, because it is safe and cost-effective.

California decided to add styrene to its Proposition 65 List based on the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s 12th Report on Carcinogens, which dates from 2011. However, OEHHA did not add polystyrene to Proposition 65, and the program’s director said there is no problem with the solid material.

Polystyrene is safe for consumers. It poses no health consequences and is simultaneously recyclable and cost-effective for businesses. It is important for consumers to know the difference between polystyrene and styrene, because they safely encounter foam in their everyday lives. For more information about the difference between styrene and polystyrene, please visit Plastic Food Service Facts.