One question we often hear about microwaves is: “Is microwave polystyrene foam safe? Does it melt polystyrene foam in the microwave, or is it okay? ”Since this is a fairly important health issue, we decided to talk in a little more detail.
There are two types of polystyrene foam
When people say “styrofoam,” it usually means any of the foam-like and lightweight products used to temporarily store food and beverages: fairly simple, right? But the facts are a bit more complicated. There are two general types of polystyrene foam out there, with an important difference.
The first type is traditional polystyrene foam, which is the name of the product for products made of polystyrene. Polystyrene is a plastic product that is made from, among other things, styrene and benzene, which are made up of bad news. Tests have shown that high levels of these compounds are carcinogenic (can cause cancer), can damage reproductive systems, and have a number of other unpleasant qualities. In other words, you do not want any in your body, specially manufactured products.
Polystyrene is a common plastic compound used for many different purposes.
The problem is that the styrofoam does not react very well to heat. High or prolonged to heat causes the material to break and melt, which in turn leeches styrene and benzene in food ( just see what makes an iPhone ). The last thing you want to do is put the styrofoam in the microwave, or burning at all. Styrofoam at normal temperatures has been certified as well to come into contact with food, but the microwave styrofoam is leaching dangerous chemicals.
The second type of polystyrene foam is not technically the traditional version we know, but rather a similar product made using different materials, safer, or lower levels of hazardous compounds. It can still be called polystyrene foam (and it looks like the same product in some cases), but the ingredients are different from the traditional version, and specifically designed to withstand heat more effectively.
Is this new version of microwave polystyrene foam safe? Yes – for the most part. The FDA requires extensive testing for these materials to ensure that any chemical leech meets the safety levels for a lifetime of use. If the material tests pass the FDA review, they will have a notification on the material that can be used in the microwave. If you wonder how to know if the styrofoam is microwave safe, just look at the bottom or sides of the product at any sign, warning or notification.
Ok, let’s talk common situations
- Cup of noodles: “If styrofoam is bad, the microwave cup of noodles may be in them” We know you’re wondering, a cup of noodle products are generally designed to be microwave safe. However, look in the box/cup and make sure the instructions that allow you to keep the noodles in the cup, and do not suggest that you switch to another container.
- Takeaway: Can you microwave styrofoam go boxes? To carry out is a bit more complicated. If your outlet comes in a polystyrene-like box, don’t put it in the microwave – food is moved out first. If your outlet comes in cardboard, it is probably safe for microwaves (just remember something that never microwaves with metal components). Or you could use the OneBowl, a portable bowl product/cup that is suitable for everything.
- Coffee cups: Can the microwave plastic cups? I did not try it. The styrofoam coffee cups are made for temporary situations, very fast and to drink when the coffee is heated. They are not made to be heated themselves, and the coffee will not hold the heat very well. Pour the coffee into a normal cup before sticking it in the microwave – or in the small mini USB microwave. For the most demanding palates, espresso can also be created from scratch with the PIAMO.
- Plates to use and throw away: How about those cheap bulk dishes – Can you microwave styrofoam plates? Polystyrene dishes have generally fallen out of favor in recent years, largely replaced by paper plates. Paper plates can be heated, but with greasy foods that could crumble. Styrofoam plates should not be heated at all.
The bottom line
When in doubt, throw it away. Do not make microwave polystyrene foam materials unless you see a sign that they can be heated. If there is any sign that the material melts or breaks, trash and food go instead of taking the risk! If you are looking for a great new microwave, remember to check our microwave news and comments as well!