On September 22, 2013 the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reports in an article by senior staff writer Yasuji Nagai, that the Styrofoam debris from packaging, including food contact materials (FCMs), may harm the marine ecosystem on a global scale. Katsuhiko Saida, researcher in a Japanese and South Korean research team, asserts that Styrofoam decomposes not only at high temperatures, but also at temperatures normally found in oceans, leaching styrene oligomers into the water. Styrofoam is used to package fresh foods such as fish, but also for cups containing hot beverages or meals. Styrene oligomers were found to act like endocrine disruptors in animal tests. While the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a standard of 0.02 ppb, a research team from the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology found levels up to 30 ppb in seawater around the world, reports Nagai. To confirm that the styrene oligomers were indeed from packaging, the research team analyzed polystyrene decomposition at temperatures below 50°C, and found a styrene oligomer composition resembling that encountered in seawater. The research team presented their results at the American Chemical Society meeting, which took place September 8-12, 2013 in Indianapolis, U.S.. According to The Asahi Shimbun article, a representative from the Japan Styrene Industry Association dismissed concerns regarding the high environmental levels of styrene oligomers, claiming that research institutes in Japan and abroad commissioned by the association were not able to detect endocrine activity of styrene oligomers.

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The Asahi Shimbun, Yasuji Nagai (September 22, 2013). “Scientists: Drifting Styrofoam a toxic soup for world’s oceans.