Dangerous Toxins You've Eaten

By Ted Twietmeyer
Data4Science

There are hidden perils associated with some conveniences. If you take a drink of tea using a glass tumbler, you're as safe as the water you drink. Take that same drink from a foam cup and it can be a different story. Actually, the foam is polystyrene - it's the same plastic many computer monitor cases and televisions are made of, just in a different form.

Most readers are familiar with the woman at McDonalds who won a huge lawsuit over coffee that burned her lap. But has anyone really stopped to think about the coated paper containers used everywhere for soda, coffee and hot chocolate? Paraffin wax is well known but it's actually derived from crude oil and dates back to Carl Reichenbach in 1830. Paraffin is classified as an alkane hydrocarbon.

Yes, paraffin is made from that same crude oil which makes everything possible including plastics, household chemicals, furniture, gasoline and house paint to name only a few. And you can easily consume paraffin without even knowing it.

Polystyrene (foam) applications:

POLYSTYRENE FOOD CONTAINERS - NON-FOOD USES OF STYRENE

Coffee cups Packing "peanuts"
Soup bowls and salad boxes Foam inserts to ship appliances/electronics
Foam egg cartons, produce and meat trays Television and computer cabinets
Disposable utensils (plastic-ware) Compact disc jewel boxes
Audio cassette cases

Consider hot coffee poured into a polystyrene cup. What happens? "The migration of styrene from a polystyrene cup into the beverage it contains has been observed to be as high as 0.025% for a single use. That may seem like a rather low number, until you work it this way: If you drink beverages from polystyrene cups four times a day for three years, you may have consumed about one foam cup's worth of styrene along with your beverages."

It's difficult (and sickening) to imagine eating styrene plastic in any quantity.

But the problem doesn't stop with container chemistry. Fat products in food as well as acidic products can leach more polystyrene out of the plastic than water does. Long-term exposure to small quantities of styrene is also suspected of causing:

Low platelet counts or hemoglobin values;

Chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities;

Neurotoxic effects due to accumulation of styrene in the tissues of the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, resulting in fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, and other acute or chronic health problems associated with the nervous system.

There are measurable levels of styrene in both unprocessed and processed foods as shown below:

UNPROCESSED FOOD STYRENE LEVELS (ppb)

Cinnamon 170 - 39,000

Beef 5.3 - 6.4

Black currants 2 - 6

Coffee Beans 1.6 - 6.4

Peanuts 1 - 2.2

Strawberries 0.37 - 3.1

Wheat 0.4 - 2

PROCESSED FOOD STYRENE LEVELS (ppb)

Milk and Cream 134

Beer 32

Yogurt 26

Desserts 22

Soft Cheese 16

Styrene levels in food - source: 2005 NIH report

Note how foods higher in fats leach more styrene out of the plastic, and this list is far from being all inclusive! There are the plastics in which microwavable food is packaged. There is still a toxin threat even if they heat those items up in a conventional oven instead of using a microwave.

On top of all this poisoning potential, styrene is also considered a carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research. Cups, plates and silverware are commonly made from this plastic, too.

Ceramic mugs can also be a problem. Cracks in aging ceramic glazing can expose the bare ceramic to the liquid you are drinking. If the ceramic has lead or other chemicals, these could migrate into your drink. Over time, it could lead to various health problems. And what about those cracks inside your coffee mug? These cracks probably would never cross your mind when a doctor gives you the bad news about a health problem - perhaps a serious problem that he doesn't even understand.

So what's the solution to foam, styrene and ceramic problems? Use a glass cup or tumbler wherever you can.

Has this report cured you of drinking or eating from foam cups and plates? Or cured you of eating and drinking food from paraffin hydrocarbon coated paper plates and cups?

It's what you can't see, smell, touch or taste that can hurt you the most.


Posted September 2008 | Permanent Link

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