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Smithers-Oasis responds to claims in study 'Foaming at the Mouth'

Some media have given attention to a recent publication by C. Trestrail et al. However, according to Smithers-Oasis, it describes statistically insignificant biological responses of marine and freshwater invertebrates to the ingestion of floral foam microparticles following their starvation in laboratory conditions. "Aside from the attention-grabbing title of the publication, “Foaming at the Mouth,” it is difficult to understand why", states Smithers-Oasis in a reaction.

Smithers-Oasis’ response to the claims in the article and its source materials:

As a global company with a long-standing commitment to sound science and good environmental stewardship, we have a number of concerns, including:

  • First, the publication does not reflect real-world conditions. The test subjects were harvested, transferred to a laboratory environment, and literally “starved” by the researchers before being fed a diet of only crushed floral foam in water filtered to prevent naturally occurring algae and bacteria from influencing results. It is hardly surprising that the test subjects ingested the foam in these conditions. As the authors conceded, “the ingestion of these microplastics was likely driven by the physical presence of the microplastics” in the absence of anything else.
  • Second, “No mortality was observed during the experiment,” and the small group of biomarkers for which the authors collected data showed only effects without statistical significance, if at all. The authors were left expressing uncertainty about certain data they reported due to the conceded presence of “confounding factors,” and speculating about how changing the test parameters, such as “modifying exposure time or selecting a different age class” of test subjects “could have yielded statistically significant results.”
  • Third, the publication appears to have been prompted by what the authors describe as a “viral social media trend” involving “videos of people using their fingers to crush blocks of floral foam” that purportedly “generates innumerable microplastics.” The authors provided no data or
    analysis about the scope of their conjecture regarding “threats” to the biological subjects of their laboratory experiments, instead apparently secure in leaving such subjects to the realm of the imagination.

Smithers-Oasis stands behind its OASIS® Floral Foam and embraces sound science that looks thoughtfully at the performance of our materials in the real world. The publication by C. Trestrail et al.
does not add to that body of knowledge.

Additional information

Commitment to Sustainability
Smithers-Oasis is committed to contributing to the sustainability of the earth we live on and the people and communities we serve globally. Consistent with our dedication to social responsibility, we recognize the environment requires thoughtful stewardship and accountability to preserve it for future generations.

As a leader in the floral industry, our commitment is long term. We look for ways to be an increasingly sustainable company. We will continue to introduce innovative and environmentally friendly floriculture products and programs that increase the sustainability of our planet.

Working Together—Our Corporate Social Responsibility
At Smithers-Oasis, we recognize that our actions as a worldwide organization affect many people and places. For this reason, we take our corporate social responsibility very seriously. We believe our obligation goes well beyond legislative compliance, to a moral obligation to act responsibly in our daily business.

Our goal is to make a positive impact on our employees, customers and communities and to lead through responsible management and applying socially and environmentally responsible practices in all we do.

Environmental Statement

Global View
Over the years, we have worked hard to lessen our footprint on the planet. When it comes to the environment, our actions have always been to align ourselves with all local regulatory requirements. We support this promise to environmental stewardship throughout our organization.

Research and Technology
Our research and technology teams collaborate with our global suppliers to develop our raw materials and specifications. Our ongoing commitment to the highest production standards includes Lean Manufacturing Practices and elimination of waste, which provide operational efficiencies that benefit our company, customers and the environment.

Floral Foam Products
Our floral foam is based on inert phenolic resin technology, the same chemistry used for the handles of kitchen cookware. When made into cellular floral foam, our resin is fully polymerized and reacted with only small traces of free acid (much lower than cola beverage products) which may be neutralized by adding water.

Smithers-Oasis was the first in our industry to eliminate the use of freon from floral foam production. Moreover, we've successfully reduced our volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs) by more than 85 percent over the past 25 years.

In addition, some OASIS® Floral Foams offer enhanced biodegradability. We include the word “enhanced” because they require more than 365 days to fully biodegrade. Rates of biodegradation vary depending on the location of production, because raw materials and formulations vary. All claims regarding biodegradability have been tested following ASTM D5511 for biologically active landfill conditions. Repeated testing has been conducted by an independent, certified, testing laboratory. Contact your local OASIS® Floral Products supplier to identify the floral foams with enhanced biodegradability and their specific rates of biodegradation.

Post-Harvest Products
Our postharvest products are specially formulated to maintain an optimal environment for cut flowers by adjusting the water pH for maximum uptake, providing a source of energy for the flower, and keeping the flower stems open and free flowing.

Grower Products
Our growing media are both cellular and organic, and are well aerated and designed for optimal callus formation and root development. All OASIS® growing media are engineered products that meet our rigorous quality standards.

We stand by the following commitments:

We will continue to maintain a standard of compliance with all applicable environmental laws in every country where we operate.

We will continue to research our products to find additional ways to reuse, recycle and reinvent our products to reduce our footprint on the environment.

We will continually set new objectives for improving our environmental performance and reducing the environmental footprint of our operations and our processes.

For more information
Denise M. Patterson, Director of Corporate Marketing 
Email: [email protected]    

Publication date: