Plastic is EVERYWHERE. Think: cups, plates, bags, lined soup cans, shampoo bottles, toothbrushes, toys, baby teethers (yikes!), furniture, food containers, shoes, cars, jewelry, phones, clothing, even cosmetics … and the list goes on and on.
Plastic not only is bad for our environment, animals, oceans, OUR water, but it is also not good for our children or our bodies. Tiny bits of micro-plastics are created which often end up in oceans, are then eaten by aquatic life, and later end up in our bodies through many forms which include ingesting fish and other animals. Research shows, “Americans ingest at least 74,000 microplastic particles every year,” according to the Washington Post.
It takes hundreds of years for plastics to biodegrade and the sad part is, approximately only 9% of plastic is actually recycled. Most plastic is not able to be recycled, contrary to popular belief, and ends up in landfills, our oceans, and water ways.
With so many resources in today’s day, there are much better AND safer alternatives which include: clear glass, stainless steel, and silicone.
IF you MUST buy plastic… here’s what you should know…
PVC is the most toxic. I avoid it whenever I can. It is not only toxic to consumers, but extremely toxic to those who manufacture it and the surrounding communities who breathe in the pollution it creates.
The 7 Plastic Numbers & What It Means For Your Health
Plastic items are often coded with a recycling number 1-7. This number indicts the type of plastic and is used in the recycling process. Unfortately,
1, 2 – Usually recyclable
3,5,6 – Some recycling companies are able to recycle it
4, 7 – Not usually recyclable.
Plastic #1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
PET is considered a safe plastic, but can leach the toxic metal antimony, and brominated compounds. Water bottles, soft drink bottles, sports drink bottles and condiment bottles are some products that contain this type of plastic.
Bromine is known to cause acute paranoia and other psychotic symptoms while antimony causes a host of health issues ranging from heart and lung issues to vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ulcers. The longer a bottle of water sits on the shelf, the more antimony it contains. This may vary based on exposure to sunlight, temperature, and pH levels.
One study that looked at 63 brands of bottled water produced in Europe and Canada found concentrations of antimony that were more than 100 times the typical level found in clean groundwater (2 parts per trillion).3
Plastic #2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE is considered a low-hazard plastic, but like most plastics releases estrogenic chemicals. Milk, water and beverage bottles, cleaning supply bottles, shampoo bottles, grocery bags, cereal liners and many others contain this type of plastic.
HDPE and other plastics disrupt your hormones and structure of your cells, posing risks to both infants and children. Even products that claimed to be free of BPA, have tested positive for other toxic estrogenic chemicals.
Plastic #3 or “V”: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
The MOST toxic plastic for consumers, manufacturers and our environment and should be avoid as much as possible. PVC is often used for shower curtains, bags for bedding, shrink wrap, deli wrap, cooking oil bottles, plastic toys, play-mats, flooring, table cloths and blister packs used to store medications.
PVC can be rigid (unplasticized) OR flexible & clear (plasticized). During the production process, plasticizers, including phthlates are added to increase flexibility and soften plastics. DEHP is a type of phthalate often used in PVC that causes cancer.
Toxins enter your body as they are released into the air we breathe and food we consume, causing a number of health issues including cancer, deformations, low sperm count and infertility.
Tip: If the plastic is soft and flexible – it is probably PVC.
Avoid children’s playmats made from PVC/Vinyl. You can choose a latex mattress topper as an alternative, Corkimat, or a fun pile of cotton blankets!
Plastic #4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
LDPE is considered a low hazard and does not contain BPA, but may leach estrogenic chemicals similar to HDPE.
Bread bags, squeezeable bottles including condiment bottles, fresh produce bags, household garbage and frozen foods bags, as well as in paper milk cartons and hot/cold beverage cups are all common uses for this plastic.
Plastic #5: Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene is one of the “safest” plastics you can buy. It is said to have a high heat tolerance making it a good choice for outdoor toys and storing food, although I personally wouldn’t recommend any plastic containers for food. PP is unlikely to leach chemicals, but evidence is still inconclusive.
PP is used for containers including yogurt, deli foods, medications and takeout meals.
Plastic #6: Polystyrene (PS) AKA Styrofoam
Avoid polystyrene as much as possible. This type of plastic leaches styrene into your food, damages your nervous system, and has been linked to Cancer. Benzene, a known human carcinogen, is used in the production.
Everything from cups, plates, meat trays, packing peanuts, and more can be made from Polystyrene (Styrofoam). Hot food and beverages very well may be the most dangerous due to the amount of styrene they leach from containers. Therefore, AVOID if possible coffee cups, to-go containers, etc. that are made from polystyrene (Styrofoam).
Plastic #7: Other
Plastic #7 is often made from a combination of plastics and resins. It most likely contains BPA and/or BPS and most likely other toxic chemicals. Technically, there is only a partial ban on BPA (for example, in baby bottles), but research shows there are much greater concerns and a full fledged ban should be implemented, as described here.
The reason BPA and BPS are so dangerous is because...
- They mimic, interfere, and disrupt with your body’s hormones and endocrine system which regulates mood, growth, development, metabolism, reproductive processes, sexual function and tissue function.
- In utero exposure to BPA compounds, can lead to chromosomal errors in the developing fetus, causing spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage.
- Strong evidence shows these chemicals are effecting adults and children, too. Leading to a host of health issues including, but not limited to…
- Early puberty, decreased sperm count, and cancer.
- Insulin Resistance – an underlying factor in many chronic diseases
- Stimulation of mammary gland development
- Disrupted reproductive cycles and ovarian dysfunction
- Heart disease
Q&A SECTION: PLASTIC
So, what are the “safest” plastics?
#1, 2, 4, 5 … But, only #1, 2, and 5 are most likely to be recycled which means the others will end up in a landfill. Avoid PVC Plastic #3 at all costs – the entire duration of its life cycle is toxic to humanity. Also, avoid Polystyrene #6 (styrofoam) and Plastic #7 Other as much as possible.
Where can I find the number(#) plastic on items?
Often found on the bottom, side, or inside plastic items will be a number. If the number is not present, you can contact the manufacturer for more information.
How can I tell if something is silicone or plastic?
If silicone contains plastic (or is plastic), when it bends, it will turn white-ish in the area where it was manipulated.