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:
CODES TO AVOID
- #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.
GENERALLY SAFER PLASTIC CODES:
- #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.
WHEN THERE IS NO CODE.....
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:
- Safe Mama has a cheat sheet on BPA free bottles and sippy cups.
- The Z Report provides this helpful poor to excellent guide to BPA in children's food products.
- The Environmental Working Group is an awesome resource that rates safety of thousands of consumer products - its my regular go to when researching purchases.
- 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.
- Waterproof mattress pads are also typically made of vinyl. I recommend the Naturepedic waterproof fitted organic mattress cover - they're pricey but worth it considering how much time your baby will spend in his/her crib.
- Switch out your shower curtain for a non vinyl option - TJ Maxx has lots of affordable alternatives.