Dems call for House polystyrene ban

Fifty-nine House Democrats are pushing Republican leaders to ban polystyrene foam food containers from House cafeterias.

In a letter sent to House leaders Thursday, the lawmakers said the District of Columbia’s ban on polystyrene containers — also known by the brand name Styrofoam — shows “it is past time for Congress to do the same.”

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Capitol Hill is not obligated to follow D.C.’s ban.

“Since our last letter in 2011, we remain concerned about the potential health and environmental effects of your current choice to use polystyrene foam products in the House of Representatives cafeterias,” wrote the Democrats, led by Reps. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanLessons from Congress' last big battle on climate Current, former lawmakers celebrate release of new book on Jack Brooks, 'The Meanest Man in Congress' Finally, a presidential EMP order that may save American lives MORE (Calif.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees MORE (Ore.), two of the most outspoken environmentalists in the House.

The members also cited a July report from the National Academy of Sciences that supported putting styrene on a list of possible human carcinogens. In people with occupational exposure to styrene, the report found increased instances of lymphoid, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, the Democrats said.

The July report pertained only to styrene, of which polystyrene is made. The Food and Drug Administration considers polystyrene to be safe for food contact.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had instructed House cafeterias to avoid polystyrene when she was the Speaker. But Republicans overturned the ban in 2011 when they took control, citing lower costs and increased effectiveness of the material.

The Senate, controlled by Democrats, does not use polystyrene.

“For more than three years, House members and staff, as well as constituents and visitors to the Hill who eat in our cafeterias, have needlessly been exposed to this dangerous chemical,” the House Democrats wrote. “We have also been contributing to the problem of litter in the District of Columbia.”

—This story was updated at 4:27 p.m.