There is a surprising amount of misinformation in circulation about polystyrene foam foodservice packaging, which is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company.

Polystyrene foam foodservice products are not manufactured with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or any other ozone-depleting chemicals.[i] Dart Container has never used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in manufacturing molded foam cups.

Blowing Agents
When polystyrene foam packaging is produced, a blowing, also known as expansion, agent is used in the process. Below are two types of blowing agents primarily used in PS foam products:

1. Pentane gas – it has no effect on the upper ozone layer, although, if not recovered, it can contribute to low-level smog formation. Most Dart plants recapture and reuse a substantial portion of the pentane released in the pre-production processes as fuel.

2. Carbon dioxide (CO2) – it is non-toxic, does not contribute to low-level smog, and does not deplete the stratospheric ozone layer. Dart uses existing commercial and natural sources so that it does not increase net levels of CO2.

Styrene is a naturally occurring substance present in many foods and beverages, including beef, wheat, strawberries, coffee beans, peanuts and cinnamon. With permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it is used as a flavoring additive to frozen dairy products, baked goods, soft candy, and gelatins and puddings.[ii]

This graph shows levels of naturally occurring styrene in selected foods as compared with styrene that migrates from a polystyrene foam cup.


In the final analysis, all credible research indicates that it is safe for people to consume these foods and use polystyrene foam foodservice containers.[iii]

According to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA) report, “[t]he margins of exposure estimated for oral exposure to styrene from food, whether naturally occurring or as a result of migration from food packaging or other food contact items, indicate that risks are quite low and of no concern.”

Styrene is a clear liquid that is used in everything from foam food containers and packaging materials to boats, cars, computers, medical equipment, and video games. Derived from petroleum and natural gas byproducts, styrene helps create thousands of remarkably strong, flexible, and light-weight products.

Polystyrene has been used safely for decades in food contact applications with no scientific evidence that it causes human health problems, such as cancer. Some people confuse styrene, which is a liquid, with polystyrene, which is a solid plastic made from polymerized styrene. Styrene and polystyrene are fundamentally different. Polystyrene is inert and has no smell of styrene. Polystyrene often is used in applications where hygiene is important, such as health care and food service products.[iv]

Polystyrene meets stringent U.S. FDA standards for use in food contact packaging and is safe for consumers. Health organizations encourage the use of single-use polystyrene food service products because they provide increased food safety.

Styrene Information Research Center (SIRC) has invested many years of effort, and nearly $12 million in research funding, to develop the most thorough and accurate information about possible cancer effects resulting from styrene exposure. The results of extensive health studies of workers in styrene-related industries collectively show that exposure to styrene does not increase the risk of developing cancer, or any other health effect.

“I see no problems with polystyrene foam cups.” [v]

The American Cancer Society concurs. In June 2011, Bloomberg News reported that American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley said, “Consumers don’t need to worry about polystyrene cups and food containers…”

Polystyrene and Bisphenol-A (BPA)
Polystyrene #6 and Bisphenol-A have nothing to do with one another. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is not used, directly or indirectly, in the manufacture of Dart polystyrene foam products.

[i] Alexander, Judd H. In Defense of Garbage. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993. 55.

[ii] See: FDA’s Food Additive Regulation at 21 CFR 172.515

[iii] Kelly Puente, Recyclable Foam Trays a Cure for Long Beach Schools’ Headache, Press-Telegram, May 19, 2011, available at

[iv] “Disposables versus Reusables: A Study of Comparative Sanitary Quality.” Dairy Food and Sanitation. January 1985.

[v] Source: Bloomberg News, June 2011