As I look around modern America today, I can’t help but feel as if I’m living in a plastic prison. This versatile material is in almost everything: packaging, furniture, clothing…
GET THIS: in March of 2014, Subway actually admitted to adding a plastic chemical into their bread! Azodicarbonamide, is a chemical used to make plastic and rubber products and subway was using it to fluff your bread!
There’s no getting around plastic these days, but there is a way of recognizing which plastics are safer than others.
The numbers on plastic bottles and containers are recycling symbols that you can use to determine the safety of your plastic container.
1. Polyethylene Terephthalate.
*Generally this plastic is safe for a one time use, and BPA free but do not re-use it. This is the most common plastic used for single-use bottled drinks and polyester fabrics because it is inexpensive and easy to recycle. However, it still poses a low-risk threat of leaching breakdown byproducts like the endocrine disrupting chemical called acetaldehyde.
2. High Density Polyethylene.
*Generally safe and BPA free. A versatile plastic with many uses, especially for packaging: milk bottles, bottle caps, food storage containers, shampoo bottles. It carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable.
3. Polyvinyl Chloride
*NOT SAFE. Avoid this plastic like the plague. This is the most toxic leaching plastic that leaches phthalates, carcinogens, dioxins, BPA, and much more. It’s linked to reproductive problems, diabetes, organ toxicity, birth defects, and cancers. It’s used in cling wraps, clear food packaging, shower curtains, pleather, insulation, and children’s toys. If you must cook with PVC, don’t let the plastic touch the food. Never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.
4. Low Density Polyethylene.
*Generally safe and BPA free but don’t re-use because it was not designed for re-use. This is a flexible plastic used in produce bags, squeezable bottles, and even in carpet. They degrade really slowly and present a burden to the environment for centuries.
*BPA free and assumed to be generally safe but the additives and softeners used in this plastic haven’t been tested for safety. It’s used in, straws, diapers, medical equipment, and bottle caps.
*NOT SAFE. Over their entire lifespan they leach BPA and toxic brominated flame retardants, can leach styrene when heated, and is a possible endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen. Highly toxic when it burns and is notoriously difficult to recycle. It’s most popularly known as Styrofoam, it’s used to make rigid take out containers, hot drink cups, plastic cutlery, and egg cartons.
*NOT SAFE. These are a wide variety of plastic resins that don’t fit into the previous categories so they are lumped together into #7. Most of these plastics contain Polycarbonate (PC) that leaches BPA which is linked to infertility and developmental damage. These plastics are potential hormone disruptors, especially when heated. Used to make reusable sports bottles, baby bottles, coating in cans, 5 gallon water jugs, i-pod cases, sunglasses.
To keep it simple, just remember to avoid numbers 3,6, and 7 and you’ll be ahead of the game.