In this fast paced life you are getting everything packed to go. Fast food is the way many have opted to go because of the demands on their time. Microwave dinners, take out, and ordering in are the norm these days while homemade meals come into play over the holidays and weekends. With this lifestyle comes the use of packing material from the eateries. And why would you make your utensils dirty when you already have the TV dinner in its own dish, you ask? Well that makes sense since you have the benefit of takeout without having to think about dirty dishes. But have you thought about the potential risks the Styrofoam your takeout is packed in has on your health? If you are wondering can you microwave Styrofoam the answer is a resounding no. Here are the reasons why.
What Makes Styrofoam
In order to properly understand what makes Styrofoam a risk to your health, you need to first understand what it is made of. Styrofoam is a petroleum based product. It is expanded polystyrene foam and is therefore a plastic. It is used largely in packaging takeout as it is cheap, retains heat, is impermeable to moisture, and is presentable. This makes it an ideal packaging material even for wet foods. Styrofoam is used to make takeout plates, cups, and disposable plates. Industrially it is used to package and protect products like electronics from damage.
Styrofoam is made of plastic pellets through heating and cooling. These pellets are melted together and fashioned to form the various products you see. So what makes Styrofoam unfit to microwave?
The Danger in Styrofoam
Styrofoam is a soft plastic which is easily altered by temperature change. It is not able to handle high temperatures. When exposed to high temperatures Styrofoam releases a fume which is a neurotoxin. A neurotoxin is a chemical that is destructive to the nervous system. A microwave is a powerful machine that emits high temperatures in order to heat your food fast and evenly. While this is a good thing, heating food in Styrofoam becomes a very bad idea because of the release of the neurotoxin. When it is released it settles in the food or beverage being heated and you ingest it. If you have been wondering can you microwave Styrofoam then this should be a good reason not to. Styrofoam is so susceptible to heat that if you are drinking coffee from it you are basically drinking down a little poison with it every time.
The Chemicals Involved
The chemical called styrene is responsible for the toxicity of Styrofoam. When you use Styrofoam regularly you are likely to start having gastrointestinal upsets as well as eye and skin irritations. Lymphoma, leukemia, and damage to the white blood cells are other risks that exposure to styrene exposes you to. This is just the beginning of the risks that are involved. Continual use is exposing you to a chemical known as Bisphenol A, which is commonly known as BPA. BPA is a chemical which has been known to increase the risk of breast cancer. This makes Styrofoam a dangerous container to use for heating food. So what can you do to avoid compromising your health?
Changes You Can Make
Since you now know how heat affects Styrofoam and how this product affects your health, there are a number of things you can do to avoid these dangerous effects. While you cannot completely avoid Styrofoam since it is used so often, you can stop heating it in the microwave. This is the first thing you can do to help yourself. You can also throw away Styrofoam containers once you use them. They are made for singular use and should not be recycled. You should also keep away from Styrofoam cups and not use them for drinking hot beverages. Whenever possible, keep Styrofoam products away from your kitchen since having them around makes it easier to excuse their use every once in a while.
While there are some Styrofoam containers (just like plastic containers) that are labeled as being microwave safe, it is impossible to ascertain that you will be safe. What is most advisable to use are glass and ceramic containers which are heavy duty. At the end of the day remember that a microwave is a powerful appliance that requires heavy duty containers in order to protect your food.