Three Plastic Numbers To Avoid (Because of BPA and Other Chemicals)

Updated on April 27, 2016

The Three Plastics to Avoid

BPA is a compound found in plastics. Whether it's a bottle of water, a lid for coffee cups, a pre-packaged salad container or just that huge jug of water on the watercooler, it seems that we encounter so many plastics products in our everyday drinking and eating. Many of these products contain a chemical known as bisphenol A, or BPA, which can be very harmful to humans. Recent studies have provided evidence that several types of plastics are evidently unsafe for use; 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 perhaps the most alarming, is that many products made for babies and small children are made from these harmful plastic types including sippy cups and baby bottles. BPA is also found in the epoxy lining of metal containers including soup cans and drinking bottles.

Recycle Codes

Plastics To Avoid

Most plastic products are marked with a number that corresponds to the type of plastic it is made of. The number, known a as '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.

#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 the 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!

photo by dailygren
photo by dailygren

Tips for Safe Use

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.

- Reusable containers or cups with stainless steel or ceramic interiors are a good substitute to 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.

-Taste - if your drink has even a bit of a plastic taste to it, don't drink it!

Safer Plastics

#1 polyethylene terephthalate, #2 High Density Polyethylene, #4 Low Density Polyethylene, #5 Polypropylene are deemed the 'safer' plastics.

BPA in Plastics

Bisphenol A, othewise 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 chmeical that poses such high health risks to consumers and is found in the plastics cited above.  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.  

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 with epoxy are likely to contain BPA.

'Safe' metal bottles that are most likely BPA-free are those made of stainless steel, which are more corrosion resistant.  Stainless steel bottles tend not to have any epoxy resin liners.

BPA can be found in the epoxy resin lining of canned food
BPA can be found in the epoxy resin lining of canned food

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.


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    • profile image

      Mary moscatello 6 months ago

      How do I know if tomato canned products I buy are BPA free. Product I purchase is 100 per cent made and packed in Italy?


    • GetFactsnotHype profile image

      GetFactsnotHype 3 years ago

      Very useful

    • profile image 3 years ago

      BPA in plastics

      spelling error–chmeical–should be–chemical



    • Lady Tug profile image

      Kate Ann 4 years ago from United States

      I recently watched a video on netflix called "Addicted to Plastic" that you might find interesting. I already knew a lot about recycling and the harsh effects of plastic on our health and environment, but after watching the video, I was painfully aware of how oblivious I was to the real danger. Nice article!

    • muley84 profile image

      Michael A Muehleisen 4 years ago from Miami,FL

      Great Hub. I will use and share this info.

    • profile image

      trax123 5 years ago

      I wonder about water machines at work, either the large scale bottled water or the electric (UV?) purifying machines. I understand that the UV poses no risk with consumption, but I wonder about the machine itself, it's storage container and tubing.

    • profile image

      Christopher Renshaw 5 years ago

      Phone the manufacturer of any product and ask them, and if they contain BPA politely tell them that you are not going to buy any more of their products until you remove the BPA and let them know you are going to publish the facts to everyone that you know, the more people that do this the more manufacturers will remove them

    • profile image

      Roger 5 years ago

      Why does the USA even allow use of these plastics is beyond me. Do not buy them and maybe they will go away............

    • profile image

      susan coffman 5 years ago

      does anyone know if BPA lined metal cans will leach chemicals into dry goods? we are canning things like tea bags, herbs, grains and other dry goods in cans with bpa linings. the manufacturer says there is little to no chemical leaching with dry goods -- only liquids. anyone have any info on that?

    • profile image

      NotPaidToSayThis 6 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @Ren Chin: Unfortunately, there is a major error in this otherwise very helpful article. You ascribed two different meanings to recycling code 7: "Polycarbonate" and "Other". According to many sources, including, the latter is correct. A plastic with recycling code 7 is often--but not always--made of polycarbonate or ABS. So yes, you should "watch for this one," but to determine whether "this one" contains BPA, you can't rely on codes alone.

      @Martina: When a product imprinted with recycling code 7 is from a responsible source and says "BPA-Free", it is not made of polycarbonate. The Rubbermaid BPA FAQ at says "... no current Rubbermaid consumer food storage products contain BPA, phthalates, dioxins, adipates or other plasticizers—so they do not leach these sorts of chemicals under any circumstances, including microwaving and dishwashing". The FAQ also explains how you to tell whether your older Rubbermaid product contains BPA.

      I have no connection with Rubbermaid except my decades of buying, using and often liking their products. And I was NotPaidToSayThis.

    • profile image

      Martina 6 years ago

      So, I just bought 30 piece set of Rubbermaid containers including lids. Box says BPA FREE - Does not contain Bisphenol-A. I liked it because it included 4oz containers which I wanted to use for baby food!! Well well, those BPA FREE containers have recycle code #7!!! DO NOT RELAY ON BPA FREE STICKERS, CHECK FOR CODES! Especially if you using containers for your children. These containers were Designed in USA and MADE in Malaysia. Now I'm more aware and using real BPA FREE containers, preferably US made.

    • profile image

      arundeep 6 years ago

      very useful especially in the present situation where lifestyle diseases are accounting for majority of casaulties, most of which can be avoided if we take a little care in such things

    • profile image

      Angelino 6 years ago

      I am receving a ResMed Positive airway Pressure Device today.

      I just discovered that the plastic used to make this product contains BPA. I know that I will not be drinking from this machine; but my concern is that I will be utilising it for my sleap apnea.

      I hope that This BPA chemical used does not have a negative effect on my body.

      I don't know how much is known about BPA used in the plastic for this device and it's use.

      Anyone knows?

    • profile image

      Name 6 years ago

      Great information to know.Here after I'll check the numbers before buying plastic.Thanks

    • profile image

      Cali 6 years ago

      Keep up the good work. I think somebody wants people to die faster with all the unsafe things going on in the food world. Lead in children's jewelry in toys in plates. Now plastics. FDA seems to be more incompetent ever year. Their rules and regulations don't seem to be followed and violations are a slap on the hand. LOVE THE TERM THEY USE "NO KNOWN HEALTH EFFECTS" doesn't mean there isn't any!!!!! Now we know why the autism in children is 1 to every 50 children in the USA. our children are loaded with unhealthy chemicals.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      Great info. Bisphenol-A and phthalates are dangerous and should our exposure to them should be minimized. Thank you for providing this resource.

    • PlayaNorte profile image

      PlayaNorte 9 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      very informative, i can never remember which numbers are which so I am going to bookmark this page

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 9 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Thanks for this information! I always thought the numbers were purely some sort of abstract recycling code, not that the code refers to the ingredients in the plastic...very helpful!

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