Floral Foam: Not so green
March 4, 2009 § 13 Comments
Since people are having a hard time getting the msds sheets, I am copying and posting the msds sheet for smither’s oasis foam and linking it here.
You can also contact the makers of the floral foam (like Smithers-Oasis) yourself and have them send you a copy of the MSDS sheets for their products, as many floral foods, dips, leaf shines and adhesives contain hazardous chemicals either for you or for the environment. I found a few msds sheets here: but not all were thorough or up to date. I did learn however, that some floral foods and cleaners are highly toxic to fish and sea and should not be disposed of in drains or sewers or anywhere where it can get into the water supply.
Whatever you do, get the information you need and make healthy decisions for yourself, your family, co-workers and the environment!
Have you ever seen that green foam that shows up at the bottom of flower arrangements? You know, the green foam brick florists soak in water and use to model and water flowers?
Have you ever wondered what it’s made of?
Well let’s talk about it.
I searched on google and found someone who had asked the same thing on blurtit.com. Unfortunately the answer they were given left a lot to be desired. In fact, someone left a comment basically saying-just tell us what it’s made of already!?!- I’ve long wondered the same thing; but at florist supply stores, I can never seem to find the ingredients. Why would we not want to be upfront about what’s in this stuff called floral foam, what florists openly refer to as Oasis (the name for the most common version of this foam which is a registered trademark of Smithers-Oasis North America). Maybe they don’t really know, maybe it doesn’t come with an ingredients label, or maybe it’s because it’s not made of good stuff.
The basic element of floral foam is plastic. It’s not biodegradable and has chemicals that I would consider toxic. But what’s more, through the openness of information (sometimes via laws that are created through our government) this information is made available on the public skyway called the world wide web, so we can actually find out more for ourselves. Go ahead and take a look: www.fdionline.net/Files/MSDS/SO-OasisFloralFoam6-05-06.pdf
For those of you who just want it given to you straight, I’ll abide. Basically it says that Oasis Floral Foam made by Smithers-Oasis of North America, is made of plastic that’s not biodegradable and it has some hazardous components, namely: Formaldehyde, Carbon black, Proprietarty Acid Catalysts, Proprietarty Sulfactant and Barium Sulfate. The first two being known as carcinogenic. The document also suggests that this foam may be irritating to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It also says that prolonged exposure to Formaldehyde and Carbon black may cause cancer. There are a few pages of information about the hazards and possible symptoms both short term and long term. Overall, it’s a wealth of knowledge.
It carries risks if dust from the foam is inhaled. Formaldehyde leaches into the water that the foam is soaked in and if it’s kept in hot or stagnant enclosures this may cause the formaldehyde to off-gas. Some people get irritated by touching it. Hmm.
What does this mean to the floral consumer? Well, you might want to ask your florist not to use it. If it is used, dispose of it properly and don’t burn it.
What does this mean to the floral designer and florist? I might suggest that if you are concerned about your own health, you would avoid using floral foam. If you are concerned about the health of your customers,or the health of the environment and our communities, and want to prevent the build up of our massive landfills and the leaching of toxins into our water and land, then you might consider avoiding this stuff.
One green step I’ve taken in my floral business is to avoid plastic whenever possible, so floral foam is out of the question anyway. But, it does give me relief knowing I’m not putting my own health at risk or that of my community/planet around me by using floral foam.
This is no easy task however, as floral foam makes it so much easier to make exciting and modeled arrangements. But there are methods that we can start practicing instead until someone out there starts selling the biodegradable and non toxic version. (which someone has probably already created and just needs to mass market) Curled up branches or balls of wire can be helpful in securing an arrangement. And I’m sure if you really put your mind to it, you can find other ways to display beauty without the foam.
In Green and Health,