Dow Chemical Company has trademarked styrofoam, and its generic name is polystyrene. While styrofoam is commonly used as an insulating product, polystyrene is used in the production of plastic products including cups, plates and bowls.
Styrene, a building block in polystyrene, has been investigated as a health concern. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified styrene as a potential carcinogen, which means it may cause cancer.
When consuming something off a product made with polystyrene, styrene can leak into the food, especially when warmed in a microwave. Passage is somewhat dependent on the food's fat content -- the higher the fat, the more styrene escapes.
Styrofoam is sometimes used in packaging products and craft projects. Parents of small children should know that, if their child eats styrofoam, it is not toxic. The American Association of Poison Control Centers say styrofoam is a choking hazard, not a poison risk.
Styrofoam consumption is hazardous to dogs. Dogs cannot digest the product, and it can get trapped in the intestines.
Small amounts of styrene consumption are believed to cause menstrual irregularities, thyroid troubles and low platelet counts. To lower any possible risks, use ceramic, glass or paper products for any food or beverage items when cooking, eating and storing.