With global trends leaning towards healthy living and a cleaner environment, there has been a general movement from synthetic materials and processed foods in general.
One of the things causing the biggest debate is polystyrene foam or, as it is commonly known, Styrofoam. The jury is out on this one and there has been a lot of information and misinformation being peddled out there such that one is confused as to whether or not Styrofoam is microwave safe.
In fact, some countries have banned it altogether due to the purported risks of Styrofoam especially when it is being used as a food container.
In this article, we will delve into this subject with some depth and help you make a well-informed decision on whether or not you can microwave Styrofoam.
A brief History of Styrofoam
The invention of Styrofoam dates back to the Second World War when it was created as a flexible electrical insulator. To this day, it is still being used to insulate buildings.
It has since found many more applications one of which is as food containers and cups. Polystyrene is a type of plastic and plastics generally tend to release toxic chemicals when heated.
This is one of the biggest reasons why people are skeptical about it and why you are probably reading this article.
The chemicals released when Styrofoam and other plastics are heated to high temperatures will usually not cause any immediately noticeable side effects but the concern is usually more about the long-term health risks that it poses.
A lot of information and misinformation has been shared on the internet regarding this subject. Just do a simple Google search and you will find loads of results under “Can you microwave Styrofoam”.
The biggest question that a lot of people have in mind concerns the long-term side effects and in particular whether or not you can get cancer when you microwave Styrofoam.
Can You Get Sick from Microwaving Styrofoam?
This is the big question that the majority of people are looking to have answered when they search for whether or not you can microwave Styrofoam.
Because of the chemical composition of a lot of synthetic materials, exposure to different natural or artificial elements can cause certain reactions.
As already stated, heat is capable of melting certain chemicals in plastics thereby contaminating the food contained in it. Styrofoam contains a chemical called styrene which studies have shown to possibly cause leukemia and lymphomas.
Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mt. Sinai Medicine School advises that pregnant women and children should stay away from Styrofoam cups and containers and use glass instead.
It’s worth noting that cold drinks and food in Styrofoam containers are not as dangerous as hot food. The heat is what causes the leaching of chemicals into your food.
Other Health Hazards of Styrofoam Studies have also shown that, other than causing cancer, the chemicals in Styrofoam, when heated turn into neurotoxins that can kill the neurons in your brain.
Inhaling the fumes from heated Styrofoam can cause flu and flu-like symptoms. It can also cause asthma. When you get a doggy bag at a restaurant and they pack it in Styrofoam, make sure to take it out and put it in a glass container the moment you get home.
Don’t store it in the Styrofoam. The Styrofoam industry insists that the evidence presented against Styrofoam is inconclusive and says that it is not harmful to human beings.
Regardless of this though, many fast food outlets and food manufacturers have moved away from Styrofoam and opted for paper instead.
Though this is true for most plastics and other types of Styrofoam, there are certain types that are microwave safe. Some strides have been made in making this material much safer.
You can tell which containers are safe by simply reading the labels on the container. So, can you microwave Styrofoam?
It’s best to err on the side of caution than to risk your health. If you have to microwave Styrofoam, make sure that it’s the type that is microwave safe and not the regular type.
It is also much safer to take cold food and drinks in Styrofoam rather than hot ones. I hope this article has helped you to answer this question in a comprehensive way. I always like to hear your comments, questions, and contributions.
Agnes is a kitchen and cooking enthusiast as well as a fitness fanatic. She loves to help readers upgrade their kitchen with the best available products!