Pattaya Daily News

07 February 2013 :: 15:02:57 pm 71508

Eating From Foam Food Containers is Risky Business

The widespread practice in Thailand of using foam containers or plastic bags for “take away” food orders is a hidden health hazard, doctors warn. Heated food causes chemicals like styrene to leach into the food and end up absorbed by the body. Some chemicals are known carcinogens, so eating takeout food from foam containers should be minimized.
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The type of foam generally used for takeout containers is Styrofoam, which is made from the black waste from the petroleum fuel distillation, says Dr. Weerachat Kittirattanapaibool, an environmental packaging specialist.

Sytrofoam containers contain the chemical styrene, which has a molecular structure similar to estrogen hormone in females, Dr. Weerachat said. The problem is that any chemicals contained in the styrofoam will leach into the foods inside, especially if the food or liquid is hot.

The styrene is then consumed by humans along with the food. Although there are no definitive studies of the long-term effect of styrene and other chemicals, evidence suggest that years of accumulating traces of chemicals in the body may lead to diseases or even premature death.

Doctors suspect chemicals like styrene can cause symptoms of “brain fog” resembling Alzheimer’s disease. Exposure to styrene may affect mood and cause irritability, and result in females having irregular menstrual periods, Dr. Weerachat said. Statistically, a person who eats at least one meal daily from Styrofoam containers for 10 years will increase his cancer risk 6 times above normal, he said. Other studies suggest similar risks from the plastic bags also used for takeout foods.

There are 3 types of carcinogens in styrene, which in males increases the risk of prostate cancer, and breast cancer for women, he said. Both sexes have a higher chance of getting liver cancer, even if they do not regularly drink alcohol, he added.

Styrene is classified as a hazardous material in the United States, which recently listed it as a carcinogen. Pregnant women who eat foods packed in polystyrene boxes have a greater risk of having a child with Down’s syndrome, or born with deformed body parts, the doctor warned.

There are five main ways that the styrene from foam containers will leach into food:

1. Temperature fluctuations, when the food is both heated up or cooled down, could cause the styrene to be absorbed into the food more than usual.

3. Food left in the container too long will eventually start absorbing chemicals.

4. Using a microwave oven to reheat food in a foam container is especially hazardous. The high heat will cause the styrene to ooze out in large quantities.

5. When the food contacts the surface of the foam, including plastic bags, both styrene and dioxins from the plastic bag that are known carcinogens will be absorbed into the food.

Hot food like curry rice or hot fried eggs might literally melt the foam box on contact, so it is like eating your meal with styrene, the doctor said. Even buying raw eggs sold foam boxes is not advisable, because eggshells can also absorb the styrene, he said. It is safer to buy raw eggs sold in cardboard containers.

Photo : Internet   Category : Health

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