About     Why Sustainable?     Services     Design & Events     Store     Contact     Blog

Floral Foam: Not so green

March 4th, 2009 § 16 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!

Original post:

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?

gg-floral-foam

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,

G&G

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

§ 16 Responses to Floral Foam: Not so green"

  • I was diagnosed in 1995 with high levels of formaldehyde in my blood after becoming very sick. I was told I was handling something that was full of formaldehyde that was being absorbed into my skin. I use mostly vase arrangements in my shop but have continued to be hospitalized over the last 14 years with lymph gland infections that are unexplainable. This is a very dangerous product that needs to be taken off the market. Only in the State of California is it marked that it contains a product that causes cancer. I am shocked there is still no MSDS sheet in the boxes.

  • rachael coffey says:

    Thank you so much. I have been wondering about this and have asked a number of florist but noone knew! I work with students in an Agriculture Classroom and I will advise them to wear gloves and wash their hands well after using this. In fact I will limit their exposure as much as possible. This needs to be discussed publicly!

  • melissa says:

    Thank you for researching and posting this info! I agree the facts need to be shared publicly. FYI, I found using aspen wood shavings, aka; excelsior (the stuff you often find in gourmet baskets) actually holds flower stems pretty well. It’s inexpensive, all natural, compostable, holds up in water and doesn’t shorten the vase life of cut flowers.

  • Jeannette Hudson says:

    As a lecturer in floristry I’m very interested to know about the floral foam product talked about above. We are already getting students to mask up & wear gloves when using the product & will endeavour to move away from its use in future.

  • sarah Hussey says:

    I was taught at college back in 1980 that floral foam was a product of the oil industry and that we must learn to use moss etc as the foam was not sustainable(way ahead of their time, or just saving pennies?) I was trying to find out more as I work for the National Trust in the UK and came across your article (interesting stuff). I was keen to look at the link you provided but it comes up with ‘page unfound’. Can you help me further? You seem to be the only one talking about this! Many thanks. Sarah

  • ronda says:

    Thanks, I’m studying floristry at present.
    One teacher says the floral foam is highly toxic, the other teacher says according to Interflora you can use it as a wetting agent in your garden (no thanks!). Thanks for your comments, as it is very difficult to get actual information on the subject. [This often means there is some truth missing!]
    Are there any fact sheets on floral foam produced by govt depts? CSIRO or Ag/Horticulture?

  • nina says:

    this is helpful! i agree with earlier comment that u seem to be the only one talking about what the foam actually is -thanks for delving into this! even rarer is to find out how to dispose of the foam safely. i guess for those who already have it the only thing to do for now is to contribute to clogging land fill sites…but your article will certainly make people like myself think twice about purchasing it again as a result of knowing where it’s coming from and where it can’t go to!

  • Deddie says:

    I am a florist have been for 30 years and this really comnerns me. How would I know if this product has caused me harm. Does one wait for sy symptoms of illness or are there tests that can be done to make sure you are no sick. please send me any information you my have Thanks

    • Well, the only thing I’ve heard from other florists is the amount of formaldehyde they have been exposed to can show up in your blood. Other than that, I don’t know that there is any concrete info as it doesn’t seem to be something the floral foam companies have done much research on (or at least shared info about) nor do they actually share with florists that the stuff can be hazardous/toxic.
      I just assumed since it was plastic and did strange things that it had to be unnatural and as I did more research I found out that it can be hazardous. Hence, I don’t touch it/use it/breathe it

      Pilar

  • Judith says:

    I was a wedding florist with a shop run out of my house for about 5 years. During that time, I was sometimes a little lax about vacuuming my shop floor between wedding jobs. My cats kitty door came into the shop and then another door led into our house. Kitty sometimes had to navigate small chunks of foam and lots of dust from it while going into the house. A few years later he developed lung cancer and died. I always wondered why he got lung cancer until I got curious after reading an article about floral foam. Now I am convinced that his exposure to the foam is what killed him since there were no other carcinogens in our house. I feel horrible! He was a wonderful friend and to think that due to my ignorance and the floral foam industry’s seemingly underhandedness at keeping the truth from florists, my cat had to die. I am now looking into getting a chest xray and blood tests to determine if I am next! Please use extreme caution if you really feel the need to work with this substance.

  • Pam says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been searching for this information for a while. I have my own company, and have been freelancing in the event industry for 15 years. Some of these large companies would each easily contribute over a ton of (wet) waste foam per year, and offer no protection to those who work with it.
    It’s time for the floral industry to put it’s creativity to use and find more ways to avoid this health and environmental disaster.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pam Salisbury, eco|stems. eco|stems said: ecotip! Do not use floral foam in arrangements! It's full of harmful chemicals like Formaldehyde, Carbon black,… http://fb.me/RShgGK0Z [...]

  • Anita Beeney says:

    I found the MSDS at under Smithers.
    It was not overly conserning information about foam but I do share the consern over the possability of it being hazardous

  • [...] the makings of a professional arrangement? No problem, grab your granny’s old floral frog (the earth-friendly alternative to floral foam) from the back of the drawer in the dining room, a pair of garden pruners, and get to [...]

  • [...] the makings of a professional arrangement? No problem, grab your granny’s old floral frog (the earth-friendly alternative to floral foam) from the back of the drawer in the dining room, a pair of garden pruners, and get to [...]

What's this?

You are currently reading Floral Foam: Not so green at Gorgeous and Green.

meta