My wife's family is joining us for a vacation in New Hampshire near Storyland. It seems like this is a standard summer vacation for all Boston-area families with small children like us. It's easy to see why. Our four-year-old daughter loved Storyland---Cinderella's castle, circus the flying whales, the twirling turtles and even the more scary rides like the Bamboo Chute.
This morning, my mother-in-law put a take-out styrofoam container into the microwave to warm up left-over pancakes. My wife and I both cautioned this move, warning about the possibility of plastic chemicals leaching into the food. She said it was fine---they do it all the time without any ill effects. I was curious to find out the truth. A Google search returned a consumer-oriented Harvard Medical School newsletter about exactly this issue. The answer is "it depends". Not all styrofoam will leach chemicals in sufficiently large enough quantities to arouse concern. But, many of those containers are tested and labeled "microwave safe". In particular, single-use containers such as take-out styrofoam boxes are generally not known to be safe and should not be used in the microwave. Of course, the FDA is conservative with the "microwave safe" label, requiring 100-1000x less chemicals than have been shown to harm laboratory animals over a lifetime of use. So, occasionally eating food out of microwaved take-out styrofoam boxes might be okay, but it's not clear and it's not a risk I'm willing to take.