Harvard Study: Safety of Polystyrene Foodservice Packaging

From 1999 to 2002, a 12 member international expert panel selected by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis conducted a comprehensive review of potential health risks associated with workplace and environmental exposure to styrene. The scientists had expertise in toxicology, epidemiology, medicine, risk analysis, pharmacokinetics, and exposure assessment. The complete findings were published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health (referenced below).

The Harvard study reported that styrene is naturally present in food such as strawberries, beef, and spices, and is naturally produced in the processing of foods such as wine and cheese. The study noted that “federal regulations also permit low concentrations of styrene in food” as an additive.

The scientists reviewed all of the published data on the quantity of styrene contributed to the diet due to migration from food contact packaging. The scientists concluded that there is no cause for concern from exposure to styrene from food or from polystyrene used in food contact applications, such as packaging and foodservice containers.

Reference: “A Comprehensive Evaluation of the Potential Health Risks Associated with Occupational and Environmental Exposure to Styrene”, Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA (Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Volume 5, Number 1-2, January – June 2002, published quarterly by Taylor & Francis.) Findings also were published in the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis’s Risk in Perspective.

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