Have you ever noticed that there are certain numbers on the bottom of plastic bottles and plastic containers? Have you ever wondered what they might mean?
There are 7 numbers (1 through 7) that may appear on the bottom of plastic bottles and food containers, and some of the numbers should be avoided at all costs. Technically, they are called “resin identification codes”, and appear inside a little recycling symbol. The most toxic plastics are #3, #6 and #7.
Here is a list of these 7 numbers, what they mean, and which ones are most hazardous to you:
Plastic #1: Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET)
This type of plastic is found in most plastic drinking bottles used for water, soft drinks and juices, containers (jellies, jams, salad dressing, condiments, etc.), and thin films (bags and snack food wrappers).
PET or PETE plastic does not contain BPA and is generally considered safe. However, it can leach a toxic metal called antimony, which is used during the manufacturing process of PET plastic. The rate of leakage increases with temperature (which is why you should never drink water from a plastic water bottle that’s been sitting in the sun all day).
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), antimony can cause acute and chronic health issues like diarrhea, vomiting and stomach ulcers.
Plastic #2: High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
This type of plastic is found in cloudy or opaque plastic used for milk jugs, juice, shampoo, detergent, and cereal-box liners.
HDPE is considered a low-hazard plastic, but a recent study has suggested that all plastics (including HDPE) release estrogenic chemicals, which could cause health problems, especially in pregnant women
Plastic #3: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or V)
This type of plastic is found in shrink wrap, deli and meat wrap, bags for bedding, plastic toys, and tablecloths.
PVC is a pretty toxic plastic. It contains a toxic chemical that disrupts the endocrine systems, causing genital deformations, low sperm counts, testicular cancer and infertility in experimental animals.
Phthalates have been found to be linked with asthma in children and can have a negative effect on the immune system.
Plastic #4: Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
This type of plastic is found in bags for dry cleaning, newspapers, fresh produce plastics, garbage bags, frozen food packages, bread packages, shrink wrap, and coatings for hot-beverage cups and milk cartons
LDPE is a low-hazard plastic, with little concern, other than the possible effect of leaching estrogenic chemicals.
Plastic #5: Polypropylene (PP)
This type of plastic is found in cloudy or opaque plastic used in Rubbermaid containers, clouded plastic baby bottles, containers for condiments and yogurt, and deli foods.
PP is another low-hazard plastic, but one study found PP-made laboratory plasticware to leach at least 2 chemicals.
Plastic #6: Polystyrene (PS)
This type of plastic is found in styrofoam found in food service items like bowls, plates, cutlery, take-out containers, aspirin bottles, and meat trays.
Thanks to the leaching of styrene into your food, this plastic has the ability to damage your nervous system and cause cancer. The level of styrene that leaches into your food seems to be temperature-dependent, so avoid using disposable cups and take-out containers for hot beverages or hot food. Instead, use a reusable cup or bring glassware when eating out, in case you want to take your food home.
Plastic #7: Other plastics like acrylic, nylon, polycarbonate and polylactic acid (OTHER)
This type of plastic is found in 3 and 5-gallon reusable water jugs, citrus juice bottles, ketchup bottles, oven-baking bags, and custom packaging
One of the worst plastic types, plastic number 7. These plastics almost always contain the hormone-disrupting chemicals bisphenol-A (BPA). These endocrine disruptors mimic or interfere with your body’s hormones and can cause issues in humans, children, and fetuses.
In the case of pregnant women, BPA can cause spontaneous miscarriages, chromosomal errors in the fetus, and genetic damage. In the case of adults and children, these endocrine disruptors can lead to early puberty, disrupted reproductive cycles, reduction in sperm quality, ovarian dysfunction, cancer and heart disease.
Just one week of using plastics under the label #7 can increase urinary BPA concentrations by up to two-thirds. This plastic type has also been linked to obesity and insulin resistance and may be present in over 95 percent of adults.
Tips for cutting down on your plastic use
If possible, seek to purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic. Here are a few ideas for doing so:
- Use reusable shopping bags for groceries
- Store foods in the freezer in glass mason jars as opposed to plastic bags
- Avoid disposable utensils
- Use stainless steel or high-heat-resistant nylon for utensils in lieu of plastics
- Bring your own mug for coffee
- Take your own non-plastic container to restaurants for leftovers
- Buy foods in bulk when you can
- Bring drinking water from home in glass water bottles, instead of buying bottled water
- Replace your plastic kitchenware with glass or ceramic alternatives