Are Thermocol and Styrofoam Products Harmful for The Environment?

Uma Shankari By Uma Shankari, 11th Aug 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Environmental Science

The polystyrene products are ecologically as bad as plastics.

What is Themocol?

People are more aware of plastic as a pollutant, but are generally less aware of the polluting effects of Thermocol, a widely used light packaging material. Its easy-to-mould-into-shape nature helps to transport fragile and oddly shaped consignment easily. But its disposal proves to be a challenging task.

Some of us recycle it by cutting and painting it and turning it into a decorative item. We also use it to mount drawings and photographs in exhibitions and stalls in fairs. But a majority of them remain buried in the heap of trash in dumping grounds.

Thermocol contains an important thermoplastic compound called polystyrene, which is obtained by the polymerisation of styrene or phenylethene or polyethene. Being non-biodegradable and resistant to photolysis, or the breaking down of materials by protons originating from a light source, they continue to remain intact in the soil, without undergoing bacterial decomposition, thereby turning it infertile. This, combined with their light-weighted nature causes them to float, resulting in huge quantities of polystyrene accumulating along coasts and waterways around the world, forming part of what is called marine debris.

Polystyrene also release poisonous gases on incineration which, when inhaled, can cause respiratory problems.

Styrofoam is another brand name for the lightweight, insulating polystyrene (Thermocol is a brand name too) that keeps products cold or hot, making for its widespread use as cups and glasses in all get-together events. These cups are known to choke drains during monsoons.

The EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have established styrene as a possible human carcinogen. If regularly exposed, you may experience irritation of the skin, eye and upper respiratory tract. It may also affect the nervous system, causing headache, weakness and fatigue.

Styrofoam is manufactured by using HFCs, or hydrofluorocarbons, which have negative impacts on the ozone layer and cause global warming. HFCs are less detrimental to the ozone than CFCs, which they replaced in the manufacturing of Styrofoam, but their impact on global warming is much more serious.

As many as 57 chemical by-products are released during the creation of Styrofoam. The brominated flame retardants that are used on Styrofoam also cause concern, and research suggests that these chemicals might have negative environmental and health effects.

Chemicals can leach into the food stored in Styrofoam containers and affect your health and your reproductive systems.

Alternatives to Styrofoam are being studied by scientists. Let us hope they do come up with some ecologically safe product designs.

Read Also

Plastics and Bioplastics: How do they Affect the Environment?
Choosing Milk Bottle for Kids


Environment, Landfill, Marine Debris, Polystyrene, Styrofoam, Thermocol

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author avatar Uma Shankari
I write on society, relationships, travel, health, nutrition and fitness.
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author avatar Nitul anand
11th Aug 2012 (#)

Thanks for knowledge ...
please share emotions about my pages CU again ...

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