Sunday, September 8, 2013

Guide to good and bad plastic

I have been very weary of plastic because I didn't understand what was safe and what was full of endocrine disrupting chemicals (BPA, phthalates). As I've mentioned in past posts, studies show EDC exposure is linked to reduced fertility, reproductive tract abnormalities, miscarriages, early puberty, brain and behavior problems, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Children are at a much higher risk because these chemicals can interrupt various stages of their development. They also eat, breath and metabolize more than adults because of their rapid rate of growth, which makes them even more susceptible. SERIOUSLY SCARY STUFF and I try my hardest to keep all EDCs away from my family. Plastic is so overwhelming to me because it is EVERYWHERE and impossible to avoid. I know have a better understanding and hope you find this post helpful.

Its very frustrating that current regulation does not require that manufacturers label their products with materials used or recycling codes. If it does have a code it can be used as a general guide and this is what I've learned:

  • #1 PETE or PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate is fine for single use but begins to break down when exposed to heat and harsh detergents. It is commonly found in bottled water, soda bottles, cooking oil bottles and peanut butter jars. DO NOT leave water bottles in a hot car or reuse them - one time use only! 
  • #3, "V", PVC or Vinyl: Polyvinyl Chloride is everywhere which makes it difficult to avoid. Read my previous post about Phthalates, which are hormone disrupters associated with this type of plastic.
  • #6 or PS: Polystyrene is found in packing peanuts, cups, plastic tableware, to-go "clam shell" boxes
  • #7 or Other: This plastic category serves as a catchall for any plastic other than the named #1-#6 types. They can be a combo of several different polymers and are often layered with 2 or more of the #1 - #6 types. Polycarbonate plastic (PC) is labeled #7 and found in hard plastic items with a clear, glossy look - it is known to have a weak chemical bond, which allows BPA to leach out to the plastic and into the food under normal everyday use. Whats frustrating about #7 is that some are non-toxic but others are full of BPA and there is no way to tell. #7 is shady and my strategy will be to avoid this category all together. 
Side note: One BPA-Free plastic that I will stay away completely is Eastman's Tritan co-polyester. It looks and feels just like polycarbonate (hard, shiny and clear) and I'm concerned because the company won't divulge their ingredients. When a manufacturer responds with the old standby "its proprietary", red flags start waving high for me. There have been two studies by a professor at the University of Texas at Austin that show estrogenic activity in Tritan but Eastman insists its safe.
  • #2 (HDPE): High Density Polyethylene is commonly used in detergent bottles and milk jugs.
  • #4 (LDPE): Low Density Polyethylene can be found in dry cleaning bags, produce bags, trash can liners and some food storage containers.
  • #5 (PP): Polypropylene is the most common plastic used for sippy cups, reusable dishes and utensils. It can also be found in baby teethers and toys, large outdoor playhouses, kids riding toys, bottle caps, reusable water bottle lids and drinking straws.
I say these are "generally" safer because in the United States the chemicals that make plastics are innocent until proven guilty - very little data exists on their toxicity. To date over 248,000 chemicals are on the market and the industry that produces plastic (largely represented by the American Chemistry Council or ACC), has an annual budget of over $120 billion to fiercely protect its interests. Big plastic is BIG money and they will swear up and down all day long that their $6 billion dollar baby is safe. Not to mention plastic is destroying our environment... Check out this article to get a good idea of a few more reasons why you should just say to plastic.


If you have a plastic item without a recycling code I would contact the manufacturer to confirm all materials used. Several companies have begun adding this info to their website, but you may have to do a little digging. If they refuse to share ingredients, I refuse to buy their product. Here are some resources I've found for safer plastics:

As you can tell I'm not a fan of plastic. I don't hate BPA-free plastic but I don't like it either. Here is my action plan:
  • Investigate your food storage containers and consider switching to glass or stainless steel options. I am especially concerned with plastic that I use for food storage since the chemicals can leach into my food. Just learned the cute OXO BPA-free storage containers I recently purchased are labeled #7 Tritan Eastman plastic. Another purchase that I thought was safe, ugh. I am going to buy this Pyrex glass with BPA-free lids set as a replacement - on Amazon its $18, which is a great deal. 
    • Toss anything that is marked 1, 3, 5, or 7. You may have trouble recycling some of these.
    • Get rid of any old, scratched up plastic unless you're sure its BPA-free.
    • Replace old water bottles - I currently use a BPA-free Camelback but am considering buying a cute My BKR.
    • Safe options to consider switching to: Pyrex, Corningware, Corelle, Anchor Hocking, Snapware Glass, Kinetic Go Green Glasslock, Preserve Recycled Plastic.
    • I have a few ceramic ramekins that I keep by my microwave and use when warming things up. Even if my plastic ware says microwave safe I don't trust it - always keep plastic away from heat!
    • I would only use disposable Glad type storage containers for sharing leftovers - not intended for everyday use.
    • I hand wash all plastic. Only put plastic on the top rack of the dishwasher - the bottom gets too hot!
  • Examine all your plastic baby and children items. I am a HUGE stickler when it comes to plastics and my daughter since developmentally it is a especially critical time to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals.
    • Consider wooden toys. I have found tons of awesome second hand European brands like Hape, Haba, Plan Toys at garage and consignment sales.
    •  Many baby bathtubs and baby gear are made of PVC and 99% of inflatable toys are vinyl. I highly recommend Primo's Eurobath which is made of #5 Polypropylene, BPA-free. When they are really little we loved our Puj baby tub that you use in the sink - also non-toxic. 
  • Switch out your shower curtain for a non vinyl option - TJ Maxx has lots of affordable alternatives.
I found some great sources for this post and must credit The Soft Landing websiteEWG, and this article from The Alternet. 


  1. You said to consider switching to Oxo Pop Containers as they're a safer option for plastic storage. But they are marked #7. I bought some and am loving them, but I keep worrying about them being rated #7. I read about it on this site below. Any thoughts?

  2. Thank you for pointing this out - I had previously owned the OXO Good Grips which I replaced when I learned about "7" and Tritan Plastic. I had read on a blog somewhere that the OXO Pop Containers were a safe option but I'm going to delete it from the list - glass or stainless is best. FYI - I got a great deal at Costco on the 18 piece Pyrex Snapware for $24 and I love it! I'm gonna have to check out Laura's Rules blog, looks great. Thanks again

  3. Thanks Stephanie. I'm having trouble finding glass canisters for like sugar, flour, chips, crackers, etc, that are big enough, airtight, and made of glass. Have you found any safe solutions for those type dry-food items?

  4. Sorry for the delayed reply... I have not found any yet but have had lots of luck finding goodies at TJ Maxx and Marshalls - If I see any I'll let you know!

  5. Jackie - I was just at Marshall's and they had several glass canisters with silicone lids all very reasonably priced (starting at $3.99!). A few of them had a little chalk board paint on them that you could label - I'm going to check out my pantry needs and buy a few.

  6. - And just because I love you all. 12 Horus Heresy books this year. Yes tell, about half will be reprint anthologies, but still 6 brand new Heresy books in one year.

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