Plastics are everywhere with affordability and convenience; however, they are generally toxic to produce, to use, and to dispose. Toxic chemicals used in manufacturing of plastics, such as bisphenol A (BPA), present in products we use daily, are shown to create endocrine disruption, which results in detrimental effects on natural human development and growth. In addition, plastics have been found to release harmful chemicals into food and drinks, as well as into our environment by contaminating the air we breathe and the water we drink.
So what is the best solution? Reducing plastic as much as possible and choosing better, if needed.
The most common plastics have a resin code, typically on the bottom of the product, in a chasing arrow symbol:
#1 – PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
#2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups
#3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
#4 – LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers
#5 – PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Co mmon Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware
#6 – PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols
#7 – PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.
- Consider natural alternative to plastic.
- Glass, ceramic, stainless steel, bamboo, textiles, and solid wood.
- Especially important for children’s play and chew toys. The safest are those made from solid woods with non-toxic finishes and natural textiles like organic cotton or wool.
- Use a glass or stainless steel bottle for water.
- Use filtering devise for bottled water, instead of buying water.
- Consider recycling or re-purposing plastics in order to decrease waste.
- Discard any containers that have been worn, scratched, or cannot be identified.
- Do NOT heat plastics, even the ones that are microwave safe.
- Cool food before placing it in a container.
- Do not put fatty and acidic foods in plastic as they promote leaching: choose glass in this case.
- Avoid washing plastics in the dishwasher.
- Wash plastics by hand with mild soap to extend the life.
- Choose less or no plastic packaging.
- Wrap foods with butcher paper, waxed paper or cellulose bags.
- Buy in bulk as a least-packaged option.
- Use cloth grocery bags and reusable produce and bulk food containers.
- Choose fresh, frozen and dried foods over those that are canned, as most metal cans are lined with a plastic resin.
- Find a safer alternative or allow for off-gassing of any plastic products that emit a noticeable odor.
Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana
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