Plastic Fumes
March 5, 2004 6:33 PM   Subscribe

So, say you put a bag of Chinese food in the oven and forget about it. The next day, you turn on the oven to cook and realize after about twenty minutes what that godawful smell is and find molten plastic decorating your oven rack. Besides scrubbing off the plastic and airing out your house, is there anything else you would have to wonder about? Hypothetically, we're not going to suffocate because of plastic fumes, are we?
posted by sugarfish to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Something similar happened to me a good number of years ago, and the fumes were my first concern too (well, after the electrical fire I caused when I threw water into the electric oven).

We called poison control and they said not to worry about the fumes.

The cleanup was a bitch, though, and now I never put dough to rise in the oven.
posted by briank at 6:45 PM on March 5, 2004

Heh. Happened to me at my parents' house. Mom likes to store baked goods from the store in the oven. My then-boyfriend was not aware of Mom's habit and turned the oven on to preheat for a pizza. It was a mess, but we lived.
posted by GaelFC at 6:48 PM on March 5, 2004

Yes. Burning plastics in low temperature enviornments produces inefficient combustions a lot of deadly toxins. You probably wouldn't die immediately to someone standing inside a closed room burning a bunch of trash bags.

The problem is you won't die right away but will probably get cancer and die slowly and painfully. Ha ha, just kidding. Well no not really.

Other dangers are materials which produce very toxic products when burned (such as PVC plastics, polyurethanes and polystyrenes). Studies of damage from interior fires make this point painfully clear. It only takes five ounces of burning PVC to give off enough hydrogen chloride gas to kill the occupants in an average size bedroom in ten minutes. (Not Man Apart, Nov. 1982, report of results, Univ. Pittsburgh)

And if you search for "plastic burning dioxins", you're receive similar results. Though most are centered around the burning of trash bags in large quantities. I don't know if your plastic bag actually combusted or just melted, but I think he release of toxins would be the same either way due to the inefficiency at which it is done (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

Apparently though, the dioxins contained in some plastics are only second to cyanide in toxicity. I am sorry but it is now time to start thinking about your impeding demise.
posted by geoff. at 6:54 PM on March 5, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! Luckily our cleanup wasn't TOO bad. Also, thanks for the scientific info, Geoff -- since it was only one bag, I'm not too worried anymore, but it is definitely interesting.
posted by sugarfish at 7:34 PM on March 5, 2004

Also, on the thought of Dioxins is this movie. Remember one thing when you watch it: If you turn on your "Critical Thought" sensor, you might just bust your spleen with the laughing.

Using plastic tubs to detect plastic in the air? Simply BRILLIANT!
posted by shepd at 8:27 PM on March 5, 2004

I must be dying a damn slow death from those melted plastic fumes, then; my little "incident" was almost fifteen years ago.
posted by briank at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2004

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