Q1. As of now, which materials are used to manufacture disposable Communion cups? Are such materials hazardous?
A1:On a global scale, the majority of disposable Communion cups are made of polystyrene (PS), a common plastic polymer. Compared to analogous materials like polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), polystyrene(PS) is cheap and has a high transparency. However, PS is harder to recycle and, upon incineration, releases several toxic chemicals, including styrene, benzene, and carbon monoxide, as well as traces of toluene, methane, and ethylene. Styrene, the precursor monomer of polystyrene, is known to increase the risk of cancer, cause damage to the nervous system, and engender birth defects. Field experts have identified styrene as a highly hazardous chemical that, through inhibiting the central nervous system, may potentially cause liver and kidney damage. Generally, unless the polymerization of PS reaches 100% efficiency, traces of styrene residue will be present in any PS product, which may be released in its toxic gaseous form at the increase in temperature. PS may also release toxins when immersed in liquids. As of now, WHO has confirmed PS to be a carcinogen; the European Union has likewise confirmed this and is considering banning PS receptacles entirely.
As of 2012:
- EU members Sweden and Denmark have urged the recognition of styrene as a critical raw material (CRM).
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized styrene as a “potential carcinogen”.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized styrene as a hazardous air pollutant.
- The American Society of Toxicology, in their 12th revision of their Report on Carcinogens (ROC), stated that “styrene may potentially cause cancer in humans”
- ICIS Chemical Business. Styrene outlook positive BUT BEWARE, 2011.
- ECHA. European Chemical Agency News Alcert: By Committee for risk assessment(RAC) Helsinki,” Concerns around Styrene-Damaging the Unborn Child”, 2012. (3). Nicholas D. Kristof, The Cancer Lobby(Concerns on Styrene & Formal dehyde). The New York Times, 21st Oct. 2012