- For the music band of the same name see Styrofoam (artist).
In the early 1940s, Dow invented a process for extruding polystyrene to achieve a closed cell foam that resists moisture. In recognition of its superior insulating properties, buoyancy and "unsinkability," it was originally adopted in 1942 by the Coast Guard for use in a six-man life raft. Styrofoam can be used for building materials (including insulated sheathing and housewrap), pipe insulation and floral and craft products. Styrofoam insulation has been used in many notable buildings and faciities in North America.  The Dow product can be identified by its distinctive blue color.
Styrofoam can be used underneath roads and other structures to prevent soil disturbances due to seasonal freeze-thaw cycles.
The word styrofoam is sometimes misused by the general public in the United States as a generic term to indicate polystyrene foam, such as coffee cups, cooler or packaging material are typically white in color and are made of expanded polystyrene beads. The Dow Chemical Company works to educate the public that the term is a brand rather than a generic term for polystyrene foam.
Insulation decreases the energy requirements to heat or cool dwellings, hence the use of Styrofoam or other building insulation materials is environmentally beneficial, although when its useful life is over, its degradation in nature may take several hundred years. Styrofoam is rarely recycled because it is usually not cost effective.
The use of expanded polystyrene foam in disposable items such as foodservice packaging has been banned by a number of locations. A more detailed description of these activities can be found in the article on Polystyrene.
- List of generic and genericized trademarks
- Structural insulated panel
- Resin identification code
- Thermal insulation
- Building insulation
- "Styrofoam "Walls of Fame"". Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- "Engineering considerations when building on permafrost". Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- Dow Chemical Company Styrofoam page
- [http://www.cawrecycles.org/issues/polystyrene_main Californians Against Waste article on Expanded Polystyrene