Can you eat styrofoam?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat styrofoam?” and discuss what is styrofoam?

Can you eat styrofoam?

No you cannot eat styrofoam. Ingestion of expanded polystyrene (EPS) chemicals—such as styrene, toluene, methyl chloride, benzene, and formaldehyde—amplifies risks of many forms of cancer, as well as respiratory and neurological disorders. Both EPS leaching into food on trays and ingestion of EPS by fish increase risk of human absorption of toxic chemicals through the food chain (1).

Plastic is responsible for 70% of sea and ocean pollution. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic are released into the sea. Around 10% of plastics production reaches the oceans because of insufficient treatment effectiveness, accidental inputs, littering, illegal dumping and coastal human activity (4).

Styrene monomers are used in the production of foam plastics like styrofoam. It is widely used in packaging and food as an insulator. Styrofoam contains potentially harmful compounds including styrene and diethylhexyl adipate (2). There are several epidemiological studies suggesting a possible correlation between the exposure to styrene and an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma in humans (4). 

Small quantities of these compounds may leak out of Styrofoam when exposed to heat or alcohol or fat. Due to the fact that Styrofoam breaks down so readily, it is not deemed microwave-safe. Styrofoam is safe, however, when used for chilled products such as drinks and food. 

The likelihood of monomer and oligomer (which are additives of plastics) migration increases when a plastic is exposed to high temperatures during thermal processing or when food is stored for extended periods. Transfer of chemical compounds from plastics into food has raised concerns about the potentially adverse effects of food products on human health (2). PS is, however, moderately thermally stable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined the value of 300 ppm (1000 mg/m3) of styrene as admissible in case of a chronic exposure. Concentrations above that level may be harmful for human health (4).

Unless there are complications, most foreign things pass through the digestive system without creating any difficulties, however, the foreign body, when ingested, can lodge in the GI tract resulting in complete or partial obstruction (3)..

Styrofoam may get lodged in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines in significant quantities. It won’t be absorbed and might cause difficulties by clogging the system. If the doctor finds a blockage, he or she may choose to pluck it out or push it through the small opening in the wall. This is determined by the location in the body where the Styrofoam was captured.

Eating Styrofoam: What Happens When You Eat It?

Styrofoam is a foaming plastic manufactured from styrene monomers, and it’s often known as Styrofoam. It is widely used in packaging and food as an insulator. Chemicals like styrene and diethylhexyl adipate are found in Styrofoam (2). 

Small quantities of these compounds may leak out of Styrofoam when exposed to heat or fat. Due to the fact that Styrofoam breaks down so readily, it is not deemed microwave-safe. Styrofoam is safe, however, when used for chilled products such as drinks and food (2).

Unless there are complications, most foreign things pass through the digestive system without creating any difficulties. Accidental ingestion of Styrofoam is unlikely to cause damage if just a tiny quantity is consumed (3).

Styrofoam may get lodged in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines in significant quantities. It won’t be absorbed and might cause difficulties by clogging the system. If the doctor finds a blockage, he or she may choose to pluck it out or push it through the small opening in the wall. This is determined by the location in the body where the Styrofoam was captured.

Is it possible to reheat food stored in styrofoam containers?

Styrofoam should not be used to reheat food since it softens at 100°C (212°F) (5). . Microwaves and ovens, particularly those with extended cooking durations, may reach higher temperatures than those listed.

Using Styrofoam will not reheat or heat your meal; it will only keep it warm till you get home. To save time, just place the container in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up before using it as directed. However, when it warms up, harmful compounds are released into the air and cause health problems over time. Studies show that styrene migration from packaging to hot drinks (tea,milk, and cocoa in milk) is highly dependent upon temperature (the higher temperature, the higher migration) of drinks and fat content, with the highest level of migration in cocoa milk (2).

Styrofoam is a term used to describe a variety of different materials.

Polystyrene, not Styrofoam, is the actual substance used to make the containers. It’s a benzene derivative known as styrene. Because it’s made using injection molding, it’s both lightweight and quite strong.

It’s what packing peanuts are composed of, and it’s often used to move food and drinks. The massive whiteboards that come with major electronics are the exact same thing as this.

Put the food in a heat-resistant container and keep it there.

Reheat it in a suitable food container instead. It’s inconvenient since you don’t have to clean the dishes, but in the long run, it’s in your best interest.

Materials that are safe to use to reheat leftovers

As long as it is appropriate for the process, you may use any material to reheat your meal. As an example, consider the following (6):

  • When using an air fryer or stove, use metal containers and plates like those from the oven or toaster oven. Even if it’s only a thin metallic strip, don’t put it in the microwave.
  • When it comes to ovens and microwaves, glass and ceramic are both excellent choices, but use caution when placing them on cold surfaces. Before you lay the dishes down, spread a kitchen towel over the table to prevent them from scratching one other. These should not be used in a hot environment.
  • Plastic that can be used in microwaves is an excellent alternative, but avoid using it in other places since it might melt. The safe containers should be marked with a wavy symbol.

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Conclusion

In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat styrofoam?” and we discussed what is styrofoam?

Reference

  1. Clough, Kelsey. Eradicating Styrofoam Food Trays in New York Public Schools. Who We Are, 2014, 11.  
  2. Bhunia, Kanishka, et al. Migration of chemical compounds from packaging polymers during microwave, conventional heat treatment, and storage. Comprehen Rev food Scie food Safe, 2013, 12, 523-545.
  3. Jaan, A., and F. Mulita. Gastrointestinal foreign body. 2020 Sep 4. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing (2020).
  4. Kik, Kinga, Bożena Bukowska, and Paulina Sicińska. Polystyrene nanoparticles: Sources, occurrence in the environment, distribution in tissues, accumulation and toxicity to various organisms. Environ Pollution, 2020, 262, 114297.
  5. Ramli Sulong, Nor Hafizah, Siti Aisyah Syaerah Mustapa, and Muhammad Khairi Abdul Rashid. Application of expanded polystyrene (EPS) in buildings and constructions: A review. J Appl Polym Sci, 2019, 136, 47529..
  6. Cooking with microwave ovens. United States Department of Agriculture. 2013.

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