Watch out for disposable dinnerware made of corn! I had a very unpleasant experience after eating a corn-free meal off one of these plates. (The plate was supplied by a relative. It did not occur to her that something that is not food could cause a reaction). The plates in question looked like ordinary unbleached paper. Compostable eating utensils, cups, and drinking straws made of corn starch also exist and are available through several online retailers based in Canada (including EatIt.ca in Winnipeg). A number of restaurants in Toronto, for instance, the restaurant chain Freshii and the Stockyards now use clear plastic corn-based take-out containers and/or drinking cups. Some airlines also use them for in-flight meals. The efforts of environmental lobby groups such as Toronto-based NaturoPack's Get it to Go Green campaign mean that corn-based containers are becoming more and more common both in local restaurants and in institutional settings such as university campuses. (Good for the environment, awkward for corn-sensitive people: I do not look forward to taking my own cutlery and tupperware with me every time I eat out). The Globe and Mail recently called eco-cornstarch dishware quite trendy. On the bright side, a number of Ontario companies are promoting biodegradable dinnerware made from wheat or potato starch in addition to corn-based ones. Both of these should be fine for people allergic to corn.
Smithsonian Magazine published an article on the history of corn-based plastics in 2006. It's an interesting read.
Naturpack is an Ontario company manufacturing biodegradable packing puffs made from corn. Although their operation is relatively small so far, their packaging materials are being used by more and more companies. One such company is the Home and Gift in Windsor (according to a CBC radio news broadcast on November 30, 2006).
If you work in a lab and you get a rash from your gloves, you may be reacting to corn starch rather than the latex. Powder-free gloves (latex and polyethylene) are available.
Unlubricated condoms, as well as rubbery-textured sex toys, are often coated with corn starch. Lubricated condoms are corn-free. (Trust me, you don't want to take any chances here!)
Some brands of sanitary pads, maternity pads, nursing pads, incontinence pads, etc. are made with corn starch. Most such products appear to be of the biodegradable variety (such as these) but if you're having problems with a mainstream brand, this could be one reason why.
New Scientist magazine (2591:23, 17 February 2007) reports that SeNevens International of Como, Western Australia, will soon be selling disposable, biodegradable diapers featuring “a leak-proof layer made from oil-based gel mixed with cornstarch instead of plastic.” Nature Boy and Girl diapers, made in Sweden, are made of corn polymer too. Given the craze for alternatives to non-biodegradable plastics, it is only a matter of time before these products show up in Canada directly in stores (rather than just through mail order).
Corn-based fabrics are now on sale in Canada, the Ottawa Citizen reports. They are not yet mainstream.
Talcum/baby powder and many powdery cosmetics contain corn starch. Some other cosmetics, such as lipsticks and hair products, sometimes contain corn oil, but this is actually pretty uncommon.
NEW! Canada now requires compulsory labelling of ingredients in cosmetics! (This link takes you directly to the Canada Gazette, an official government publication. Bear with the bureaucratese – this is big news). Unfortunately, as usual, corn does not seem to be among the ingredients singled out as important.
Cosmetics made in Europe and/or the USA and/or sold in health food stores sometimes also list their ingredients. In the case of European ingredient listings, corn can appear as “maize” and/or under its scientific name, Zea mays.
The majority of laundry products with ingredient lists seem to be made at least partially from corn derivatives. (Seventh Generation is one brand that does not specifically list corn products in the ingredients, but their ingredient list is only partial). It is likely that the detergents and softeners that do not list their ingredients are also often made with corn products. If you are not already getting rashes from clean clothes there is probably no point in specifically seeking out corn-free brands.
Canada approved a corn gluten-based “organic” herbicide called TurfMaize for use to control dandelions and crabgrass. It is considered nontoxic – “Safe for children and pets to use yard immediately after application” – so people who are using it may not put signs up on their lawns warning that they have applied it. It is too early to tell how popular it will become, but keep your eyes open for it. It may cause a problem for corn allergy sufferers.
Just when I thought I'd seen it all: corn-based kitty litter.
Car accidents are bad enough on their own, but for corn-sensitive people, they may be even worse: airbags are coated in corn starch. When the air bags inflate, the starch can fill the air inside the vehicle. It's probably a good idea to keep an adrenaline injector pen (EpiPen) in an accessible location in the car, just in case.
Thanks to Karen Blue for this information.
Another reason not to smoke: a study in 2006 showed that adding corn syrup to cigarettes did not affect their toxicity. . . to people not allergic to corn, anyway. This implies that cigarettes already have or soon will have corn syrup in them.
- Stavanja, MS; Ayres, PH; Meckley, DR; Bombick, ER; Borgerding, MF; Morton, MJ; Garner, CD; Pence, DH; Swauger, JE. 2006. Safety assessment of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as an ingredient added to cigarette tobacco. Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology. 57 (4): 267-281.
Drywall often contains powdered corn derivatives. These corn particles are likely to become airborne during construction. The combined effect of corn dust with regular gypsum dust is probably very unpleasant to breathe. Wear a mask!
Yarn made from corn fibre is now available. Knitters/crocheters with a corn allergy, take note. (I'd like to give this a try. I suspect I wouldn't get a rash from it, considering the harsh chemical processes that were probably used to separate the fibres from the rest of the stems. . .)
Apparently, sparklers are made with corn starch (among other reactive ingredients!)
If you like to go to the movies but you react to the smell of popcorn, an antihistamine may be the price you will have to pay to enjoy a social life. Which brings me to corn in medications.