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  #1  
Old 11 January 2014, 01:54 AM
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Icon24 Don't drink alcohol from Styrofoam cups

Comment: I am writing seeking the answer to a rumor that rolls through the
student body at the school where I work ever so often and is darned
persistent. The kid spreading the rumor usually swears an older brother
or sister at college has a friend or saw someone at a party die
"instantly" or go into convulsions and later die at the hospital because
alcohol was being served in Styrofoam cups. While I have tried to point
out logically that this is highly unlikely, the chemistry doesn't make
sense, or that it was probably the last in a much-too-long line of
alcoholic drinks rather than the mix of Styrofoam and alcohol that caused
the poisoning/death, I am an English (not a Chemistry or Health) teacher
and the rumor rolls back through regularly. Obviously, this isn't a rumor
I'm interested in testing to failure.

Surely, some expert out there has done the research or knows enough
chemistry to definitively put this particular dead horse down!

Does putting drinking alcohol from a Styrofoam cup result in death by
poison?
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  #2  
Old 11 January 2014, 02:31 AM
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When in college, I researched this situation extensively, though informally, and there is no truth to said rumor. At least, it is not the styrofoam causing a problem.
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  #3  
Old 11 January 2014, 02:49 AM
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why only alcohol and not coffee, tea or soda for that matter??
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  #4  
Old 11 January 2014, 05:06 AM
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(Sniff) Everyone knows the only proper vessel for the imbibing of alcohol is the red Solo cup.
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  #5  
Old 11 January 2014, 01:42 PM
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I know to not put two-stroke gasoline in a styrofoam cup**. But alcohol?

Come to think of it, I haven't seen a styrofoam cup in a long, long time. They all seem to be paper.

**Two-stroke dissolves the styrofoam leaving you with a puddle of diesel and melted styrofoam to clean. I found out as the result of trying to prime an engine that had stalled and needed something to move a small amount of fuel. Did not work very well.
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  #6  
Old 11 January 2014, 08:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by queen of the caramels View Post
why only alcohol and not coffee, tea or soda for that matter??
Coffee and tea are both something like 98% water and Styrofoam was designed to hold water.

Alcohol is, well depends. Pure alcohol will dissolve some plastics and will leach things out of other plastics. So if you are drinking Everclear (95% ethanol) it might leach a small amount of stuff out of Styrofoam. Most alcoholic drinks though are much lower in alcohol and the combination of water and alcohol is much less likely to leach things out of plastics.

I would put the possibility of leaching (or dissolving) an instantly toxic substance out of Styrofoam with drinking alcohol at 0%.

I would put the chance of death of a person drinking 95% alcohol from any container at substantially greater the 0% and all of the risk is directly related to the health affects of alcohol.
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  #7  
Old 23 December 2014, 11:38 PM
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Wouldn't one think if it were true that the makers would have defended a few lawsuits and at least made to put warning labels on them?
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  #8  
Old 29 December 2014, 04:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
I know to not put two-stroke gasoline in a styrofoam cup**. But alcohol?

Come to think of it, I haven't seen a styrofoam cup in a long, long time. They all seem to be paper.

**Two-stroke dissolves the styrofoam leaving you with a puddle of diesel and melted styrofoam to clean. I found out as the result of trying to prime an engine that had stalled and needed something to move a small amount of fuel. Did not work very well.
Gasoline dissolves styrofoam, yes. The addition of 2-stroke oil has little to do with it, though, I believe. I guess it probably happened to you using pre-mixed gas.

OY
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Old 29 December 2014, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overyonder View Post
I guess it probably happened to you using pre-mixed gas.
It sure did. I was going off of a data point of one incidence, and was not sure if it was the petrol or the oil that did it. I nearly burned my hands off when it happened.
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  #10  
Old 29 December 2014, 07:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DurasnoPeach View Post
Wouldn't one think if it were true that the makers would have defended a few lawsuits and at least made to put warning labels on them?
If it were something that happened with typical alcoholic beverages, one would think so.

Welcome!
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  #11  
Old 29 December 2014, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
It sure did. I was going off of a data point of one incidence, and was not sure if it was the petrol or the oil that did it. I nearly burned my hands off when it happened.
That's why I keep an old glass mason jar in the garage handy, with a big label that reads "GAS ONLY" I avoid using plastic as much as possible when transferring any chemicals/volatiles/combustibles.

OY
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  #12  
Old 30 December 2014, 12:45 AM
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The plastic they make ice cream containers from here seems OK for petrol. I have used them in the past for cleaning small engine parts, and a bit of petrol is a very effective cleaner.
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  #13  
Old 30 December 2014, 01:56 AM
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Kerosene (paraffin? ) is also a good cleaner and with a higher flash point, probably a bit safer.
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  #14  
Old 30 December 2014, 03:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
Kerosene (paraffin? ) is also a good cleaner and with a higher flash point, probably a bit safer.
It (kerosene) works fine, but it takes a rather long time for the smell to go away. I filled up a kerosene lantern recently (NOT white gas) and my hands smelled of kerosene well after washing my hands twice, and even taking a shower.

My cleaner of choice is usually denatured alcohol, followed by acetone, xylol, kerosene, etc. Acetone can be tough on plastics too, though.

OY
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  #15  
Old 30 December 2014, 10:09 PM
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My experience is that unless you're brewing your party hooch out of paint thinner, there is no problem.

If you are brewing the hooch out of paint thinner, you'll have a lot more problems than a melted cup.
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