Are Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Beads Toxic?

Posted by Matthew Ressler on

In the ever-evolving world of furniture, bean bag chairs have become an iconic symbol of comfort and relaxation. From their groovy debut in 1968 to a brief hiatus in the 90s, these versatile seating options are now making a grand comeback, captivating both the young and the young at heart. 

As you look for the perfect bean bag, it's natural to wonder about the materials that make up these cozy chairs. One common option for bean bag fillers is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) beads. However, the big question is: are EPS beads toxic? 

Before you dash off to purchase a bean bag chair, join us as we unravel the mystery behind these tiny beads. Whether you want to be environmentally conscious or create a comfortable and safe living space for your family, we've got the answers you need to make an informed purchase decision. 

What Are EPS Beads?

EPS beads, our expanded polystyrene beads, are an extremely lightweight and popular filler used in bean bags and various other products. The discovery of EPS foam dates back to 1839 when it was discovered by Eduard Simon in Germany. Since then, EPS foam has undergone many transformations, leading to the creation of the EPS beads we know today. 

So, what exactly are EPS beads made of? These tiny spheres consist of 95% air and 5% plastic. The plastic component originates from a monomer called styrene, which undergoes a process of expansion to form its bead-like structure. At room temperature, polystyrene exists as a solid thermoplastic material, but with the application of heat, it can be melted and shaped into various forms.

The expansion process begins with heating the polystyrene granules, triggering a softening and expansion process driven by the interplay of trapped air and heat. As a result, the polystyrene granules transform into expanded polystyrene, expanding to an astonishing 40 times the volume of their original form. 

One downside to EPS beads is their high air content that makes them susceptible to compression. As you use your bean bag chair, the beads gradually compress under the weight and pressure, reducing their size and making your bean bag chair appear and feel flat. This compression is a natural phenomenon that occurs over time, and it can impact the overall comfort and longevity of the bean bag.

Are EPS Beads Toxic?

One common concern among consumers is the potential toxicity of EPS beads. It’s a valid concern; however, EPS beads are generally considered safe for use in bean bag chairs. The manufacturing process involves incorporating a flame retardant called hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), but it is added in small amounts and firmly bound within the polystyrene matrix. So, the chances of it being released into the environment or coming into direct contact with you are slim.

In fact, EPS beads are non-allergenic and don't contain harmful substances like formaldehyde or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That being said, EPS beads are not entirely without safety hazards. 

Most of the hazards associated with EPS are primarily related to workers involved in the manufacturing process or those frequently exposed to freshly produced EPS. Unless you're working in an EPS production facility or inhaling large amounts of freshly-made EPS beads, you have nothing to worry about.

Another common question is what about physical contact? Can handling those beads lead to trouble? Well, rough cutting or handling of EPS beads may result in minor abrasions. However, the beads used in bean bags are typically smooth and round, minimizing the risk of injury.

While EPS beads themselves are not considered toxic, it's crucial to exercise caution when using bean bags filled with them, especially around children. If a bean bag becomes damaged or is opened, EPS beads can escape and create a potential choking hazard. Not only that, but eating EPS beads can cause gastrointestinal irritation. 

It’s also important to note that the beads should stay away from your eyes. When coming in contact with your eyes. EPS beads could cause some temporary redness, tearing, or blurry vision.

Is EPS Eco-Friendly?

EPS beads are indeed recyclable, but there's a catch: it can be pricey. In fact, back in 2017, New York City reinstated its EPS ban after realizing that recycling EPS beads was not economically feasible. Other cities across the United States have followed suit and prohibited EPS as well. So, why is EPS being rejected?

The lightweight nature of EPS beads poses a challenge when it comes to recycling. These little beads can easily be swept away by the wind or water, becoming part of the global plastic pollution problem. Additionally, their low density makes it expensive to transport.

To recycle EPS, it needs to be shipped to specialized facilities where it can be compressed. Once compressed, the material becomes more cost-effective and easier to transport over long distances for recycling and reuse. However, the density issue is not the only hurdle we face.

Cleanliness is another ongoing challenge in EPS recycling. Before the material can be compressed, it must be free of any contaminants. Otherwise, these impurities create quality issues for future end-users of recycled EPS products.

As consumers, it's essential to consider the environmental impact of the products we choose. When it comes to bean bags, companies like CordaRoys are taking a greener approach. Instead, we opt for eco-friendly polyfoam bean bag filler, which offers a more environmentally friendly alternative. Polyfoam not only provides the same cozy comfort but also presents a greener solution compared to EPS beads.

So, as you snuggle into your bean bag, remember that the choice of filling material can make a difference. By opting for bean bags with polyfoam fillers, like those offered by CordaRoys, you can enjoy your cozy retreat while knowing that you're making a positive choice for the environment.

How Long Does it Take for EPS to Decompose?

EPS beads are not biodegradable and can persist in the environment for hundreds of years, if not longer. However, it is important to note that EPS beads can be recycled. Many recycling facilities accept EPS for processing, where it can be turned into new products or used as a raw material for manufacturing processes. By recycling EPS beads, their environmental impact can be significantly reduced.

Here's the deal: EPS beads are not biodegradable. These beads have a remarkable ability to persist in the environment for hundreds of years, if not longer. Fortunately, as mentioned before, EPS beads can be recycled. Many recycling facilities accept EPS for processing, transforming it into new products or utilizing it as a valuable raw material for various manufacturing processes. 

Non-Toxic Bean Bag Fillers

When it comes to filling your beloved bean bag, EPS beads may not be the best option for a greener choice. However, there are alternative non-toxic bean bag fillers that not only prioritize your well-being but also show some love to our environment.

At CordaRoy's, we understand the importance of using non-toxic and environmentally-friendly materials in our products. Unlike EPS beads, polyfoam, or polyurethane foam, is a non-toxic, recyclable material that ensures your peace of mind. It’s free from toxic substances and is not known to release harmful chemicals into the environment or pose health risks to users. 

Even better, CordaRoy's polyfoam is made without ozone depleters, flame retardants, formaldehyde, and other harmful chemicals. This guarantees the use of high-quality foam that meets strict environmental and health standards. So, when you choose an eco-friendly bean bag from CordaRoy’s, you're not just choosing comfort and style – you're making an environmentally responsible decision.


While EPS beads may raise concerns about toxicity and environmental impact, the responsible use and disposal of these materials can mitigate potential risks. However, for those seeking non-toxic and environmentally friendly alternatives, CordaRoy's convertible bean bags offer a greener choice without compromising on comfort and quality. With our dedication to sustainability, CordaRoy's sets an example for the industry, demonstrating that it is possible to create products that are both comfortable and Earth friendly. 

If you want a reliable and quality product that won't harm your health or the environment, try out a CordaRoy's bean bag chair today. With its safety and durability, you'll be glad you made the right choice!


What Is EPS or Expanded Polystyrene? | ThoughtCo. 

All About EPS Recycling | LiveAbout

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