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Is Styrofoam Microwave Safe

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Many individuals have been using microwave ovens since immemorial time to make their kitchen tasks easier. With regards to styrofoam being microwave safe, these appliances have triggered some alarming health concerns.

It is important to know the right kind of bowl or container that is ideal for microwaving. Let’s discuss whether or not styrofoam is microwave safe and the safety concerns over microwaving styrofoam

Is Styrofoam microwave safe? Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene #7, is not safe to use in the microwave. Styrofoam containers feature insulation properties to keep food warm during transport, and should not be microwaved unless the container indicates a microwave-safe symbol.

Styrofoam refers to expanded polystyrene, commonly utilized in creating disposable containers, packaging peanuts, and coffee cups. The popularity of these containers is geared by affordability ad lightweight insulation properties, which means they are ideal for keeping beverages and foods warm. 

Unfortunately, there have been a lot of frequently asked questions concerning the safety standards of Styrofoam products. This article, seeks to review the concerns and misconceptions about the microwave safety when using styrofoam.

Is Styrofoam a plastic? 

Simply put, Styrofoam is a type of plastic that is a uniquely treated polystyrene. The manufacturer expands the polystyrene volume, making it broader than the compound when employed in plastics. 

Via polymerization, what happens is that the styrene compound used to form Styrofoam is purified into polystyrene. After purification, the manufacturer adds a hydrofluorocarbon compound to expand the foam board under pressure.

The foam board can be initially perceived as Styrofoam when expanded under pressure resulting in EPS or polystyrene foam. Overall, Styrofoam is created using polystyrene material originating from plastic polymers. 

This plastic product is basically employed to develop explicit commodities such as housing insulation, lab equipment and food packaging. A combination of polystyrene with additives, colorants, or other plastics can help develop car parts, toys, appliances, and packaging.  

Basically, expanded polystyrene comprises up to 95% air. The compound has for long been employed in making insulated products such as portable coolers and coffee cups. 

Since the product is light and airy, it is also utilized in making items that float, such as life jackets and rafts. Besides, it is employed in the shipping of cushion items.

What happens if you heat up food in Styrofoam? 

Heating up food in Styrofoam is not right, however there are Styrofoam containers and bowls ideal for heating meals in them. Microwave safe styrofoam containers and bowls are #6 Styrofoam and have a microwave-safe symbol on the bottom. 

This means that you should avoid microwaving food in Styrofoam products unless it has a special safety label typically located on the underneath side of the container. 

The reason to avoid heating up food in Styrofoam products is that the meal inside will warm and get hot very fast, causing the container to melt. Microwaving plastics comes with a fair amount of risk, potentially leaching harmful chemicals into food when it melts is just one.

That said, concerning different Styrofoam products it is your responsibility to decide if you need to microwave food in these products or play it safe with a glass or ceramic dish. Notwithstanding, if the Styrofoam container has signs of damage after microwaving, the right step is to discard both the container and the food. 

Furthermore, never microwave a styrofoam container if you have microwaved it before or if the foam has visible cracks or deterioration.

In simple terms, heating up food in Styrofoam will depend on the kind of container or bowl being used. Although most people presume that the microwave is responsible for melting Styrofoam products, that perception is very wrong because it is the food that overheats the material. 

Ensure that when heating food in a Styrofoam container, the meal does not exceed 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Exceeding this temperature will surely melt the container which will mix hazardous chemicals with the food.

Does microwave Styrofoam cause cancer?

Microwaves are perceived to take part in causing cancer. This is the main reason you will find individuals concerned if microwaving Styrofoam products is safe or not. 

Styrofoam products possess synthetic chemicals from plastic polymers. Thus, exposing your body to these artificial and natural compounds can lead to unintended reactions.

As mentioned earlier, heating food in a Styrofoam product can melt some chemicals in plastic, thus contaminating your meal. If you consume this adulterated food, there can be a reaction in the body since Styrofoam has a chemical compound referred to as Styrene. 

According to health experts, consumption of Styrene can lead to leukemia, cancer, and/or lymphomas. A study also warns children and pregnant women to avoid microwaving food in Styrofoam containers and stay away from these containers and/or cups altogether.

Remember that cold meals and drinks stored in Styrofoam containers or bowls are not harmful. The danger comes when heat is involved because it will melt the container, and chemicals can leach into the food. 

Another health issue with Styrofoam is that when the container is heated, it changes to neurotoxins, a compound that destroys your brain’s neurons. Additionally, inhaling gases from heated Styrofoam containers can lead to respiratory ailments.

None of this sounds good. Seems like a better choice to stick with glass or ceramic when heating foods in a microwave.

Things to know about microwave-safe Styrofoam

Still perplexed about the safety standards of microwaving Styrofoam products? Well, when microwaving food in any plastic container, the first thing you will want to do is confirming the microwave-safe label on the packaging. 

If there is a label, the next thing you will want to do is safely heating or reheating food. To do this successfully, you will need to keep the following in mind.

Here are things to remember when nuking microwave safe styrofoam:

  • Cup of Noodles: If you have a Styrofoam cup of noodles, then you don’t have to worry because many manufacturers tailor the cup to be microwavable. Despite that, confirm the cup/box if it is microwave safe and follow the instructions highlighted by the manufacturer on the packaging.
  • Takeout boxes: You might be wondering if it is safe to microwave Styrofoam boxes as it can be somewhat tricky. In case the takeout food comes in a box that looks like Styrofoam, you should avoid microwaving it. Alternatively, if the takeout has a cardboard design, it is most likely microwave safe to a certain extent.
  • Coffee cups: Are Styrofoam cups microwavable? Well, you should avoid microwaving these cups as much as possible. They are only designed for quick and temporarily drinking scenarios after first heating the hot beverage, and then poring into the insulated cup.
Is styrofoam microwave safe

Microwave Safe Styrofoam: Final Thoughts

Generally, Styrofoam or polystyrene is not safe for the microwave. Styrofoam food containers provide insulation to keep a meal warm while getting delivered to avoid immediate reheating. 

In some cases, you may see the rare microwave-safe symbol on the bottom of Styrofoam containers. Depending on the type Styrofoam containers will determine if they are capable of use in a microwave or not. 

For cup noodles, the Styrofoam containers are made microwave-safe. Due to cooking the instant ramen noodle in the cup, you do need both boiling water and microwave to cook the noodle to the right temperature. 

However, for take out containers and coffee cups, it is not recommended to microwave. These are only suitable to keep the food or beverage warm instead of reheating immediately. 

If you need to reheat the food or drinks, place the contents in a microwave-safe container to warm the meal appropriately. Glass and ceramic materials are typically microwave safe and offer the best protection from hazardous food contamination.

In a nutshell, if you are in doubt about microwaving any plastic material, the best thing is to avoid using it all together. Microwaving Styrofoam products is not safe unless you are certain there is a microwave symbol or label on it. 

Additionally, if you see any sign of breaking down or melting, it is recommended to throw both the container and food away instead of taking the chance. The risk of consuming leached chemicals from overheat styrofoam is not worth it.