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No more Styrofoam in the Physician's Lounge

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A petition by the Hospital Environmental Committee

By signing this petition, you support switching from Styrofoam cups in the Doctor's Lounge to paper, AND support the use of reusable containers until there is COMPELLING evidence that doing so helps transmit COVID-19. Paper is much better than Styrofoam from a waste stand-point, but not necessarily from an overall environmental footprint - standpoint. Next year, COVID-19 will hopefully be a thing of the past, but pollution won't be. It's important that we don't increase plastic waste and litter in the meantime.

"Styrofoam" is single-use polystyrene foam, a petroleum‐based plastic made from styrene (vinyl benzene) monomer. Harm from Styrofoam comes from the monomers (styrene), plasticiser, and hazardous additives that leach from Styrofoam objects that pollute the environment and our bodies.

Environmental Impact

Over 25,000,000,000,000 (!!!) polystyrene foam cups get thrown away every year in the United States (Source: US EPA)

  • Being 95% air, buoyancy allows it to float down waterways, eventually making it to the ocean where it gets broken down into smaller pieces and ingested by marine life. This is a major source of ocean pollution, and animals who eat it can either suffocate, or slowly starve to death as their bellies are full of plastic and can't eat food.
  • The Department of Sanitation concluded that expanded polystyrene cannot be recycled, despite the fact that many of the containers display the recycling symbol.

Health Impact

  • Styrene and styrene oxide (created when styrene is metabolized by humans) are both classified by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) as “reasonably anticipated to be” human carcinogens.
  • Styrene is chiefly linked to leukemia, lymphoma, and related (lymphohematopoietic) cancers.
  • Styrene is listed as a human carcinogen on California’s Proposition 65 list
  • IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has classified styrene as a Group 2B, possibly carcinogenic to humans, and styrene oxide as Group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans

COVID-19 and single-use plastics

The coronavirus epidemic has introduced fears of using reusable containers for fears of contamination. This is likely not the case.

  • The Virus spreads primarily from inhaling aerosolized droplets, rather than through contact with surfaces (source: CDC)
  • Disposable products present similar hygiene issues as reusable ones (are you sure people taking Styrofoam cups have not touched ones other than their own??)
  • Reusable products are easily and safely cleaned, household detergents can easily remove COVID-19 from surfaces
  • Public health, including during this pandemic, includes maintaining the cleanliness of our home, the Earth. No amount of paper cups will eliminate the environmental footprint of using disposable items.

Link to Health Professionals who support reusable containers during the pandemic, and why:

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