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.
Randallstown. Editor: Matsushita just purchased MCA, a producer of television shows and movies. Japanese firms bought farms and slaughter houses in the West when the U.S. trade negotiator finally convinced the Japanese to drop some of their restrictions on the import of American beef.
The Japanese are building auto-assembly plants in the U.S. and taking over markets previously supplied by domestic manufacturers. Many citizens feel threatened by these purchases, since we seem to be losing control of our own domestic industry. What are the dangers and benefits of such foreign control?
Our government and our citizens caused this result. Nationally, we have been on a buying spree. The federal government has been running a $150-billion deficit, with this year's deficit estimated in the $260-$280 billion range. U.S. citizens do not save enough to fund the fiscal deficit as well as provide the capital necessary for business investment. The shortfall is made up by foreign investors attracted to high domestic rates of return compared to similar investments in their own countries.
Each year the government, businesses and citizens must service that debt; that is, pay the interest and the debt when it falls due. In a market economy, there is no government bureau that guarantees all this debt; each debtor must pay when due. As a nation, we pay more dollars abroad than we receive in debt service, and foreigners end up with these dollars. One thing they can do with this income is plough it back in further income-earning assets here. The only way to stop this drain is to produce more than we consume and pay down our debts over time.
Foreign ownership provides many benefits to our citizens:
1. Foreigners provide a ready source of capital for increasing productivity through purchasing more productive plants and equipment or increasing capacity. Increased productivity is the source for increased wages, increased dividends and higher living standards.
2. Foreigners provide new technology and competition. In car production, foreign transplants lead the way in providing quality, features on automobiles that had never been available, greater power in small engines and durability. Domestic car manufacturers are now diligently striving to catch up or surpass this competition.
3. Foreign ownership may expand job opportunities and markets. In any event, they are not likely to decrease employment. Take the purchase of TV producers. The Japanese do not yet have the expertise to replace domestic management of these firms. Yet when management is replaced, it is in their own interest to increase the quality of movies and TV series to enhance the value of their investment. Purchasing farms in the West increased the demand and market price of farms at a time when beef marketing was unattractive. Foreign knowledge of Japanese cuts of beef provided new jobs in ranching and meat packing for an expanded market.
Certainly there are costs fo foreign ownership. The firms must pay their share of bondholders' dividends or interest when due. That will increase the current foreign obligations of the U.S. Also, we must either refinance or pay off the bonds when they fall due. But that is the cost that any borrower must face.
There are many fears that we should not worry about. Foreign intervention that is unfavorable to domestic interests is not likely. Why would any investor buy a firm to destroy it? Foreigners often make bad investments by buying a domestic firm when it is going bankrupt. But domestic investors often make this same mistake. In either case, the investor loses his investment.
Our economy and government were established to provide free enterprise which results in the greatest consumer satisfaction possible. Investment in the movie industry may jeopardize the jobs of current management, but it is not likely to hurt the quality of its output. One of the reasons that the industry is attractive is to produce movies of world-wide interest. Clearly, U.S. citizens are better off with a wider range of movies and TV shows to watch, and competition keeps production cost lower than in its absence.
Some people also worry about the effects if foreigners all at once sold their U.S. assets and returned to their home markets.
The sudden increase in asset supply would send prices sharply lower. But again, that would destroy the value for foreign investors while providing real opportunities for domestic purchasers.
We should regard foreign investment in domestic assets as a vote of confidence in the stability of our economy.
Leslie W. Small.