CONTRARY to the beliefs of some, there is no scientific evidence that polystyrene is unsafe or detrimental to public health.
Perak Environment Committee chairman Datuk Dr Muhammad Amin Zakaria (BN-Batu Kurau) said the state Health Department monitors the use of polystyrene for packing food through its food safety and quality programme.
“They are looking at developments and action taken by international agencies and advanced countries as well.
“They have also found no evidence that polystyrene will affect one’s health.
“In addition, the main agencies that regulate food safety, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration, have approved the use of polystyrene for packaging food. And no country has stopped using polystyrene to pack food due to safety reasons,” said Dr Muhammad Amin in response to a question raised by Zainun Mat Nor (BN-Chenderoh).
Styrene, added Dr Muhammad Amin, is a natural substance found in food such as strawberries, beans, meat, beer, coffee and spices.
“It is clear that it is safe to be used as a material for packing food, so there are no specific laws enforced and implemented by the state Environment Department on the use of polystyrene-based food packaging.
“However, local authorities are still encouraging food traders to reduce its usage as it is not environmentally-friendly,” he said.
Zainun had asked whether the state intended to introduce specific laws to control the use of various types of polystyrene-based food packaging that have been proven dangerous to humans and is a major contributor to soil toxicity.
Zainun had alo pointed out that open burning was one of the major contributing factors to pollution, and asked about steps taken by the government to create awareness among the public to stop this practice.
Dr Muhammad Amin said the Environment Department has taken a few measures in raising public awareness on the matter.
“We have engaged with print and electronic media to show the many negative effects of open burning, such as fire, haze, and ultimately global warming.
“We are also working with many non-governmental organisations to put together a pollution monitoring team.
“They are the eyes and ears of the department, and they will report to us once they have found anyone committing open burning for further action to be taken,” he said.