Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Harmful Plastics

I recently sent an email to a few people that I thought might be interested in this topic. I feel it's pretty important, so I decided to share it with all of you. Look on the bottom of the plastic container you are using for the recycle number (the number inside of the triangle).

Do not use plastic #'s 1, 3, 6, and 7. It's probably best to avoid using plastic as much as you can just to be sure. For example, use a mug at work instead of refilling your plastic bottle, and put your frozen lunch (i.e. Lean Cuisine) on a paper or glass plate to microwave instead of microwaving it in the plastic container it comes in. Read the article below for an explanation.

Recently, there has been increasing controversy over the use of plastics as food and beverage storage containers. There are both health and environmental risks which must be taken in consideration. Plastic is non-biodegradable and remains in landfills, where it leaches harmful chemicals into the soil and water. Plastics are made using petroleum (crude oil), a non-sustainable, polluting and limited resource. Plastics are numbered 1-7. The type of plastic (number) is listed on the bottom of the container. Each plastic is composed of different chemicals and each carries unique health concerns. Fetuses are especially sensitive, and health problems may take place in utero, long before birth.

PETE #1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
* water bottles, soda bottles, cooking oil bottles, and peanut butter jars
* not designed to be reused
* break down easily, leaching chemicals into your body
* reusing these containers causes microscopic scratches and cracks, which serve as reservoirs for bacteria
* phthalates increase the risk of reproductive cancers and infertility

HDPE #2 (High Density Polyethylene)
* detergent bottles and milk bottles
* generally considered safer for storing food and water
PVC #3 (Polyvinyl Chloride)
* made of vinyl and used in medical equipment, plastic furniture, shrink wrap, and liquid detergent containers
* no food or drink should ever be stored in these containers
* dioxins contribute to lung cancer, endocrine and autoimmune conditions
* phthalates cause liver, kidney, and testicular damage

LDPE #4 (Low Density Polyethylene)
* plastic bags and food storage containers
* generally considered a safer plastic

PP #5 (Polypropylene)
* bottle caps, drinking straws, syrup and yogurt containers, Rubbermaid®
* considered a safer type of plastic

PS #6 (Polystyrene)
* Styrofoam
* especially toxic when heated (i.e. when used for coffee or take-out)
* causes reproductive problems and cancer
Other #7 (Polycarbonate)
* plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, water cooler containers, microwave dishes, inside lining of cans, utensils, and Nalgene bottles
* bisphenol-A disrupts hormones, and mimics estrogen
* minute amounts of this substance can result in: reproductive disorders such infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, low sperm count; prostate, breast, uterine, ovarian cancer; hypo- or hyper- thyroidism; early puberty; hyperactivity; obesity
* new bio-based plastics labeled #7 are apparently “safer” to use (though there is no way to tell if the plastic is new bio plastic or old polycarbonate.)

What can you do to protect yourself? Although it is impossible to eliminate exposure to plastics, here are some tips to help limit exposure:
* Never use plastics #3, 6, 7
* Only use #1 plastic bottles one time (better to avoid altogether)
* Store food in ceramic or glass containers (especially fatty foods)
* Use glass or stainless steel for filtered tap water
* Never microwave anything plastic (even if it is “microwave safe”)
* Never use Styrofoam for hot drinks or food

For more information, visit


Holly Kay said...

Very interesting post, Bianka. Especially now that I'm about to buy lots of plastic products for baby!

Jane: a female given name of English origin said...

I used to freeze my water and take it to work in a plastic container. The lab guy convinced me not to. This is why I drink warm water now.

Jinjer said...

Wow...good stuff to know! Thanks for sharing!!