our Health Index for More Subjects, Conditions and
Food & Drink Containers are Safe to Use?
use of plastics in your home may be unwittingly
poisoning you and your family when chemicals
from the plastic leach into the water or food that
plastic container, or bottle, is labeled with a number inside of a
small triangle which indicates what type of plastic it
is, which is used to separate them out during
help you identify these plastics, here is a handy
chart that identifies the Good, Bad and Okay plastics
and where they can usually be found.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) (Okay)
in: Used to make soft drink, water, sports
drink, ketchup and salad dressing bottles, and peanut
butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars.
Designed ONLY for single and short time use and some
concerns about the antimony trioxide which can leach
if beverages are in the container for too long -
considered a reasonable safe plastic but nor your
safest option. (Do not drink from plastic water
bottles that have been stored in the trunk of your car
in the summer.)
- High density polyethylene (HDPE) (Good)
in: Milk, water, and juice bottles, yogurt
and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, and grocery,
trash and retail bags.
Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of
causing cancer or disrupting hormones.
- Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC) (Bad)
in: Most cling-wrapped meats, cheeses, and other
foods sold in delicatessens and groceries are wrapped
in PVC. Also found in cooking oil bottles and clear
food packaging. (If you're unsure, look for the
little symbol that should be printed on the
container. Some brands have left the symbols
off, which is a major problem.)
To soften into its flexible form, manufacturers add
"plasticizers" during production. Traces of
these chemicals can leach out of PVC when in contact
with foods and drinks. According to the National
Institutes of Health, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP),
commonly found in PVC, is a suspected human
carcinogen. The risk is highest when containers
start wearing out, are put through the dishwasher or
when they are heated (including by microwave). PVC
manufacturing can release highly toxic dioxins into
the environment, and the materials can off-gas toxic
plasticizers into your home.
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) (Okay)
in: Some bread and frozen food bags and
Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of
causing cancer or disrupting hormones, but not widely
recycled as #1 or #2.
- Polypropylene (PP) (Okay)
in: Some ketchup bottles and yogurt and
Hazardous during production, but not known to leach
any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or
disrupting hormones. Not as widely recycled as
#1 or #1.
- Polystyrene (PS) (Bad)
in: Disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg
cartons, carry-out containers and some toys.
Foam insulation and also for hard applications (e.g.
cups, some toys). Polystyrene is made into soft
Styrofoam-style cups as well as rigid foams and hard
plastics products, so remember to look for those
little numbers in the arrows (don't feel bad if you
need a magnifying glass). Avoid using them as
much as possible.
Benzene, a material used in its production, is a known
human carcinogen. Butadiene and styrene, the basic
building blocks of this plastic, are suspected
carcinogens. It can release potentially toxic
breakdown products including styrene, particularly
when heated! That insulated coffee cup? Not a good idea is
- Polycarbonate (PC) (Bad)
in: Clear plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and
water bottles, 3 and 5 gallon water containers. A wide
range of plastic resins that don't fit into the other
six categories are lumped into #7. Some are
quite safe, but the ones to worry about are the hard
polycarbonate varieties, as found in various drinking
containers (like Nalgene bottles) and rigid plastic
baby bottles. AVOID #7 plastics unless you know
them to not be made from Polycarbonate.
Studies have shown polycarbonate leaches bisphenol A,
a dangerous plastic linked to endocrine disruption and
serious health conditions. PC leaches into
liquids. Apparently, no level of bisphenol A exposure
is known to be truly safe, and a government
panel expressed 'some concern' that the ingredient
causes neural and behavioral problems in
children. And it leaches faster as the container
using plastics in the kitchen (even the safer
plastics) follow these guidelines:
possible use these safer materials instead of plastic:
glass, stainless steel, silicone, bamboo or wood
(coated with food-safe, non-toxic finish), ceramic
(with lead free glaze).
you must use plastic, stick with #2, #4, or #5.
can cause any plastic to degrade, which can cause
chemicals to leach from the plastic into your food.
not put any plastic containers in the microwave.
"Microwave Safe" only means that the item
will not melt or crack.
wash plastic items by hand instead of the dishwasher.
heat and harsh detergents can cause the plastic to
wear down more quickly.
not use scratched, cloudy or badly worn plastics with
food or beverage.
not store oily, greasy or acidic foods in plastic
containers - Opt for glass instead.
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