This Is What Happens When You Put Styrofoam In The Microwave

Picture this: You wake up in the middle of the night and feel a rumble in your stomach. You realize that you're hungry. You also remember that you have leftover take-out food in the fridge. If you heat it up, you could be nibbling on some midnight snacks in no time. But wait! If those leftovers happen to be in a styrofoam container, then putting them in the microwave could be dangerous.

First and foremost, while styrofoam is actually a trademarked product from The Dow Chemical Company, according to Healthline, what we tend to call styrofoam is expanded polystyrene foam. While microwave-safe styrofoam does exist — meaning that it was tested and approved by the FDA, per Mr. Appliance — what we tend to think of as regular ol' white, squeaky styrofoam is often what you'll see molded into the shape of food containers or beverage cups. 

Pretty widely used in the past, styrofoam fell out of popularity (and has even been banned in some places) due to the fact that it can be harmful. How? Well, not only is it bad for the environment because, as The Zero Waste Family explains, it's non-biodegradable, but it can also be a health hazard. Read on to find out what happens when you put styrofoam in the microwave and why you should never do it!

Microwaving styrofoam can cause serious health issues

If you happen to have food in styrofoam containers, then you might want to put them in something else before you pop that delicious meal into the microwave. That's because the kind of styrofoam that can sometimes be used for containers or packaging contains some potentially dangerous chemicals that can become seriously problematic when heated.

While common styrofoam can be perfectly safe while at room temperature, once it's heated up — for instance, in the microwave — the container can melt. Mr. Appliance explains that microwaving styrofoam could lead to toxic chemical styrene which can be a carcinogen and apparently end up in whatever food you're trying to heat up. Indeed, Kitchen Sanity notes that because styrofoam is largely made up of Polystyrene which itself contains styrene and benzene, that equates to both potential carcinogenic issues and also possibly neurotoxic concerns.

How could that harm your health? According to Healthline, styrene has been associated with cancer. That's surely reason enough to avoid putting styrofoam in the microwave.