The Soapbox: Polystyrene food ware can cause serious health risks

Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood each week (space providing). All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 800 words, to

By Michelle Deal Winfield

After reading that New York City has decided to ban polystyrene, I decided to lend my voice to the discussion. I will focus on the impact of polystyrene on human health.

Years ago, my husband was provided a polystyrene cup with hot tea and lemon. As the lemon wedge rested on the side of the cup, a hole visibly appeared. That was the first time my family and I became aware of the possible hazards of polystyrene products. That was in 1984.

Migration of Styrene occurs when foods containing acids, fat and/or alcohol, leech into the foods, more quickly when foods or drinks are hot.

Hospitals use polystyrene products. Inpatients in hospitals do not have a choice. Some of the patients are our most vulnerable populations in our community. When food is served on polystyrene products, the hazardous chemicals may cause the following health problems:

Lack of concentration
Difficulty sleeping
Mucous membrane and eye irritation
Hearing loss

These symptoms are often attributed to seniors.

Styrene is a volatile organic compound (VOC). The damage is cumulative.

In June 11, 2011, the U.S. federal government placed polystyrene on their “Cancer Risk list.” Similarly, in the 1990s hospitals stopped using latex gloves because irritations to people were discovered. Hospital boards moved ahead of the curve to protect their patients.

Therefore, I am calling on all hospitals, nursing facilities and senior centers to stand tall and immediately initiate policies to rid their closets and storerooms of polystyrene food service ware. Furthermore, I urge New York City not to grant hospitals, nursing facilities and senior centers exemptions from the policy to ban polystyrene products. I too, welcome the ban on foam.

Michelle Deal Winfield, is a community activist and resident of East Midtown Plaza.

Bill would change how RGB calculates landlords’ costs

Rent Guidelines Board tenant members Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein (at podium) with Council Member Corey Johnson (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Rent Guidelines Board tenant members Sheila Garcia and Harvey Epstein (at podium) with Council Member Corey Johnson (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council member representing Greenwich Village, Corey Johnson, has called on the mayor to reform the Rent Guidelines Board and eliminate the price index from the calculations used to determine the annual rent adjustments for stabilized tenants. Elected officials and tenant advocates joined Johnson at City Hall last Thursday to support his legislation on the matter because they say that the Price Index of Operating Costs (PIOC) does not accurately reflect the costs and revenues accrued by landlords, causing unfair increases for tenants.

The price index doesn’t measure what owners actually spend running buildings but instead estimates their costs based on changes in prices for goods and services, like utilities, without taking changes into account, like the weather. The price index also doesn’t measure any of the income received on the properties.

“The PIOC overestimates landlords’ expenses by as much as one third and doesn’t measure income,” Johnson said. “Tenants deserve a fair shot. The 2.5 million rent-stabilized tenants in New York deserve a metric that accounts for actual income and expenses.”

Mike McKee of TenantsPAC said that the price index study is “an enormous amount of work” and that there is nothing in the law that requires the board to use the data from the study in their decision.

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