Properties of Styrofoam Cups

Written by ellice lin
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Properties of Styrofoam Cups
Styrofoam is a popular choice to hold beverages. (Image by, courtesy of Terry Johnston)

Styrofoam cups are made out of polystyrene. Styrofoam is a type of plastic trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company. Cheap and convenient, styrofoam cups are a popular choice to keep every cup of coffee hot. Unfortunately, health concerns are associated with the polystyrene material.


Polystyrene material is considerably cheaper than disposable paper products. This allows them to be easily accessible to any business's budget.

Properties of Styrofoam Cups
Many institutions purchase polystyrene. (Image by, courtesy of Eneas De Troya)

Lightweight and strong

Polystyrene cups have a low density, making them lightweight and easy to carry. Polystyrene's high tensile strength allows it to be resistant to cracking.

Properties of Styrofoam Cups
Styrofoam is light. (Image by, courtesy of marya)


A problem with styrofoam cups is that the styrene can leach into beverages and get ingested into consumer's bodies. The amount of leaching depends on the type of food or beverage it holds. Food and drink with a high fat or acidic content will have a higher leaching rate. Examples include chilli, alcohol or a tea with lemon.

Properties of Styrofoam Cups
Styrene can leak into beverages. (Image by, courtesy of David Goehring)


Polystyrene is a potential human carcinogen. It contains trace amounts of other toxins, such as styrene, benzene, and bisphenol A.

Health effects

Studies show that styrene mimics oestrogen in the body and disrupts endocrine functions. Long-term exposure to small quantities of styrene may lead to a number of health issues, including thyroid problems, menstrual irregularities, developmental and neurological problems and even cancer.

Properties of Styrofoam Cups
Difficulty concentrating is a sign of neurological problems from styrene exposure. (Image by, courtesy of Francis)

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