Why You Should Avoid These 3 Types of Plastics
This article will explore the dangers of certain plastics. We use plastic every day and can easily forget to check whether or not it is safe for us. With so many products out there, it can be hard to know what is safe and what is dangerous. This article is broken into seven sections to help address your concerns about plastics and other forms of packaging.
7 Things to Ask Yourself Before Using Plastic and Other Packaged Products
- What plastic numbers should you avoid?
- What do the numbers on plastic products mean?
- Are there any tips for using plastic safely?
- What numbers are the safest plastics?
- What is BPA and why is it in plastics?
- Is BPA in aluminum and metal bottles?
- Is BPA in canned food and packaged food?
We encounter so many plastic products when drinking and eating. Many of these products contain chemicals which can be very harmful to humans. Recent studies have provided evidence that several types of plastics are evidently unsafe for use.
1. Three Plastic Numbers That You Should Avoid
- #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- #6 Polystyrene (PS)
- #7 Polycarbonate
These plastics are used in many everyday household products and often contain high levels of BPA. BPA is considered to be a hormone-disrupting chemical that is linked to autism, birth defects, reproductive problems and other health issues. You want to avoid using these plastic products so that you do not ingest bad chemicals along with your food and drink. What is most alarming is that many products made for babies and small children are made from these harmful plastic types. These include sippy cups and baby bottles. BPA is also found in the epoxy lining of metal containers including soup cans and drinking bottles.
2. What Do the Numbers on Plastic Products Mean?
Most plastic products are marked with a number that corresponds to the type of plastic that it is made of. The number, known as a "recycling code," can be found within the triangular recycling symbol (see above) that recyclable plastics are marked with. The plastics you want to avoid are numbers 3, 6, and 7. These are the types that can release nasty hormone disruptors and carcinogens into your food and drink.
Why You Should Avoid Plastic Numbers 3, 6, and 7
- #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) has di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). DEHP is an endocrine disruptor and a likely human carcinogen.
- #6 Polystyrene (PS) likely will leach styrene—which is another possible endocrine disruptor and probable human carcinogen—into your drink or food.
- #7 Polycarbonate contains bisphenol-A, a hormone disruptor. This chemical can leach out when it is heated or exposed to acidic solutions. This type of plastic is very common in sports bottles and is used in most baby bottles and 5-gallon water jugs—watch for this one!
3. Tips for Using Plastic Safely
Below are some tips for some basic practices that you can adopt for safer "plastic use."
- Use Baby Bottles made of tempered glass or polypropylene (#5) or polyethylene (#1) (these do not contain bisphenol-A).
- Keep plastic products away from heat. Heat tends to promote the leaching of chemicals. Even the safer types of plastics (see below) may leach chemicals due to heat or prolonged storage.
- Use reusable containers or cups with stainless steel or ceramic interiors are a good substitute for your plastic ones.
- Do not reuse plastic drink bottles that were intended for single use.
- Bottled drinks should be used quickly as chemicals from the plastic leach over time. Don't buy plastic bottles of drinks if it has been on store shelves for a long time.
- Pay attention to the taste. If your drink has even a bit of a plastic taste to it, don't drink it!
5. What Is BPA and Why Is It in Plastics?
Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, is a compound used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is amongst the world's highest production volume chemicals. Over 8 billion pounds of BPA are manufactured every year. BPA is the offending chemical that poses such high health risks to consumers and is found in the plastics #3, 6, and 7. A study by the NIH, published in the September 2010 journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, links the ill effects of BPA on test rodents to negative impacts on humans (see sources at the bottom of this article).
4. What Numbers Are the Safest Plastics?
- #1 polyethylene terephthalate
- #2 High Density Polyethylene
- #4 Low Density Polyethylene
- #5 Polypropylene
6. Is BPA in Aluminum and Metal Bottles?
To combat corrosion, many metal water bottles (especially those made of aluminum) are lined with epoxy resins that can contain BPA. The February 2009 issue of Specialty News (an outdoors industry trade journal) reported that aluminum bottles with plastic liners made using epoxy are likely to contain BPA.
7. Is BPA in Canned Foods and Packaged Goods?
BPA can also be found in canned goods. Similar to the process of combating corrosion in aluminum and metal drinking bottles, manufacturers of canned goods often use epoxy resins to line the inside of cans. Whether it is a can of soup, vegetables, or tomato sauce the epoxy lining of the cans can contain harmful levels of BPA that can leach from the liners into the food. Metal lids of glass containers often also have an anti-corrosive epoxy lining that contains BPA—so just because your food is stored and contained in glass, it doesn't mean it is free of BPA exposure.