We have all heard the claim that heating up food using a Styrofoam container is said to be cancer causing. Although I typically do not follow this claim, I decided to look into what it was all about and ultimately base my decision of whether or not to continue to do so based on the information that I gathered. People have always made claims about the dangers of microwaves so I wanted to find out if the Styrofoam issue was fact or fiction.
In an article published by Harvard Medical School, they tackle the subject of dangerous microwave activities. First of all, the article makes sure to point out that Styrofoam is a form of plastic so when discussion dangerous materials in a microwave, all forms of plastic are included. I found this very important because some people view Styrofoam as a completely different material than plastic. The most dangerous part of putting any type of plastic in the microwave is that the plastic is made up of plasticizers. These plasticizers are known to cause harm to the body when they are heated to a high temperature and ultimately leak into the food that you are about to consume.
Although plasticizers can leak into the food and cause damage to the body, the containers that are used to package food in the United States are regulated by the FDA. In other words, there is really nothing to worry about. According to the article, "For microwave approval, the agency estimates the ratio of plastic surface area to food, how long the container is likely to be in the microwave, how often a person is likely to eat from the container, and how hot the food can be expected to get during microwaving." This is very relevant to our class due to the amount of tests the plastics must go through in order to gain approval. The FDA takes into account that the tests being done are on animals and, thus, they calculate the data as it would affect humans.
After the FDA runs the test, they determine whether or not the container is microwave safe or not and then the container is marked accordingly. So, there are still risks involved when microwaving plastics because not all are microwave safe. However, as we have discussed, humans have a horrible grasp on risk and I can't see a little containers holding us back from heating up food.
With all of this said, it is something to think about next time you heat up food in your microwave. However, if you are anything like me, this article had no effect on the ways in which I will heat up food because the risk is very slim.