Reduce your exposure to unhealthy plastic containers.
It’s tough to imagine a plastic-free world. Plastic products are everywhere. We’ve all heard about the controversy over whether, Bisphenol-A (BPA), used for the manufacture of baby bottles and water bottles, is safe for our families, but that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg (or freezer storage container). We use plastic to line tin and aluminum cans. We use it to wrap our sandwiches, store our milk, steam our veggies, and the list goes on and on.
While the scientific jury is still out on the potential danger and long-term effects of chemicals in plastic leaching into the foods and beverages we consume every day, there is something we can do now to safeguard our families the best we know how. We can be aware of the resin identification coding system indicated by the number surrounded by arrows (1 – 7) on the bottom of plastic containers, and what they mean.
First, let’s identify the 7 categories of plastic, how they are used and whether they are considered to be safe.
1. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups
3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers
5. PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware
6. PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols
7. Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.
Source: HEALTHY CHILD HEALTHY WORLD: Be Wise with Plastics. 2012
What else should you know about plastics?
• Older plastics tend to leach increasing amounts of toxins as they age. Retire them from the kitchen and reuse them to organize and store non-food items.
• Foods made with fats or oils more readily facilitate the transfer of plastic toxins, so avoid serving and storing these foods in plastic containers.
• Avoid heating microwaveable foods in plastic containers. “Microwave safe” means the container won’t melt, not that it won’t leach toxins.
• Never use yogurt tubs, take-out bowls or other containers meant for one-time use. These containers are usually not “microwave safe” and can warp or melt allowing harmful chemicals to migrate into food.
• If you use plastic wrap, use a brand free of BPA and PVC. Ziploc, Glad and Saran are promoted as being BPA and PVC-free.
• Remember, if you are pregnant or nursing, BPA chemicals may be passed through your bloodstream or in breast milk to the baby.
• Use alternatives to plastic to store and heat your food – such as glass and ceramic containers.
• Food storage containers are relatively inexpensive. To err on the safe side, replace old or questionable containers with ones that are made of safer plastics.