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Yes to Pumpkin Spice, No to Polystyrene

Every year as new pumpkin spice products roll to market (pumpkin spice SPAM anyone?), the great pumpkin debate begins anew. Open any social media platform at summer’s end, and you’ll find all-out war raging between the lovers and haters of autumn’s favorite squash.  Team Highwave gives Pumpkin Spice Lattes the thumbs up, but about that lid your drinking through…

Your beverage as a chemical conduit

If you’re drinking take-out beverages through the polystyrene lid they come with, you’re getting a side of toxic chemicals whether you want them or not. Dow Chemical introduced polystyrene to the US market in 1937. Originally used as building insulation, it quickly found its way into foodservice in the form of containers, cutlery, and take-out lids. It is one of the most widely used plastics today, and one of the most common polluters of our planet AND our bodies.

What it does to the planet

Our land and waterways are teeming with polystyrene litter. It takes about 500 years to break down the material, and the vast majority of it is not recycled. By volume, it’s estimated that 20-30% of landfill waste is polystyrene. Once there, it’s covered up by dirt and other rubbish and deprived of the oxygen needed to decompose. Moving to our precious water resources, scientists estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. The plastic debris floating in our waterways endanger more than 1200 species of animals, and every animal on the planet including humans, depend on clean water for life.

What it does to our bodies

Polystyrene is a petroleum-based substance made from styrene and benzene. The EPA lists styrene as a potential human carcinogen and benzene is listed as a known human carcinogen. When this plastic is exposed to hot liquids, it immediately begins breaking down, leeching toxins into whatever you’re eating or drinking. Styrene is also a known neurotoxin and it accumulates in fatty tissue. The health risks associated with styrene exposure, range from fatigue and abnormal pulmonary function, to disrupted hormone function. Imagine the danger to workers who manufacture this material.

What can you do to say “no” too

One of the easiest ways to say no to Polystyrene, is to stop buying products that are made or packaged with it. Use glass food containers instead of plastic for storage, and buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging that you consume. Carry reusable water bottles and mugs, and if you must drink from a take-out cup, refuse the lid. These small actions can make a big difference if enough of us take them. You can learn more about how to live #plasticfree here.


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