Editor: This is in response to Pat Williams' Dec. 4 letter regarding the health hazards of polystyrene foam. While styrene has been produced synthetically since 1930, it is also a naturally occurring substance that has been known since the time of the ancient Greeks.
It is present in small amounts in hundreds of foodstuffs -- milk, fruit, vegetables, nuts, coffee, beer and many other foods eaten every day. In addition, styrene is regulated by the FDA as a flavoring agent in certain foods.
A minute amount of styrene migrates from polystyrene packaging into food. Studies from a decade ago show that styrene migration levels were in the 5-50 parts per billion range (a glass of beer can contain 200 parts per billion). As well, extremely sensitive tests show no benzene migration from polystyrene into food.
There is a common misconception that everything disposed of in a landfill will biodegrade away. In fact, a landfill actually entombs its waste. No air or water reaches the lower levels to allow the waste to biodegrade. Actually, the polystyrene in the landfill (less than 1 percent of the total) does act as a stabilizer which will slow the leaching of toxic chemicals into the ground water.
The polystyrene industry strongly believes that recycling is the answer to the solid-waste crisis in our country. That's why the industry has formed the National Polystyrene Recycling Co., whose goal is to recycle at a rate of at least 25 percent by 1995.
At least two county school systems in Maryland are currently operating polystyrene recycling programs and more are expected. In any case, it is unlikely that we can do away with landfills entirely because even if we were to move completely to recycling and incineration, we would still need landfills for incinerator ash and noncombustibles.
Polystyrene is not biodegradable but it is not the evil product it is sometimes made out to be. In fact, it is a safe and sanitary product that is the only food-service packaging currently being recycled.
R. Jerry Johnson.
The writer is executive director of the Polystyrene Packaging Council, Inc.
Editor: I cried when I read Michael Olesker's Nov. 27 columon Ellis Island.
Not because it was so sad, but because it brought back memories of my parents, who came to Ellis Island from the Ukraine more than 80 years ago.
I bless them over and over again.
They had the courage to leave their native land and come to a foreign country with very little money and no knowledge of the English language.
It is because of Mr. Olesker's observations that I shall make an effort to get to Ellis Island.
Editor: Accuse Gov. William Donald Schaefer of anything, but don't say he hasn't got panache. If he is going to be hauled on the carpet, it sure as heck is going to be a new one.
Do It Now
Editor: The Commission on Taxes and Tax Structure chaired by R. Robert Linowes has issued a report that would shift some taxation and would raise millions in new taxes. I believe this report is the most sensible and pragmatic approach to the many problems that exist today in light of the growing economic and financial conditions.
It is painful, indeed, to have to pay additional taxes, especially during a period of recession, higher costs of living and inflation. However, in order to provide basic government functions such as services and growth in education, transportation and infrastructure, there is a definite need for an increase in some taxes.
The Linowes Report spells it out.
I venture to predict that this report will be criticized, attacked and finally rejected by the legislature without any new legislation to solve problems that demand this report be followed and put into effect.
Editor: I am appalled at the insensitivity of the current administration in Annapolis.
While a Waterford chandelier glowers over prestigious guests at the governor's mansion, many disadvantaged people are being further denied the most basic of the quality of life -- their health.
The elderly, AIDS patients, the disabled and kidney patients desperately need continued government support of their health care, or many will die.
Is that the Christmas spirit? Is that a Christian spirit?
I would like to offer a plea to the governor and our legislators not to cut health care programs.
It should be noted that in our capacity as human beings we share a spirit of humanity, even to those less fortunate than ourselves.
J. G. Backert.
Editor: Now that Margaret Thatcher needs a job, might I suggest she be offered one in the United States Congress. She possesses what many members do not. A backbone.