Styrofoam is very common and is used to make many products for a variety of different reasons. Over the years, questions have been raised about Styrofoam, its safety and environmental sustainability.
Styrofoam is actually the trade name of polystyrene. Polystyrene is an oil-based plastic and has very good insulating properties. It is used for everything from insulation for a home to cups that contain hot beverages.
Styrofoam is extremely flammable. It is made from oil. Certain types of Styrofoam should not be used as insulation in homes.
The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified 57 harmful chemical byproducts that are released when Styrofoam burns. These 57 chemicals make Styrofoam make the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste.
Benzene is the most notable chemical that is release into the air when Styrofoam is burned. Benzene is a known human carcinogen and should not be inhaled.
Some states have made it illegal to burn Styrofoam. The company that manufactures Styrofoam, Dow Chemical Company, makes Styrofoam that is fire retardant--the type used as home insulation.