Do You Know Which Plastic is Making You Sick?


It's important to know that not all plastics are the same. Of the 7 different types of plastics some or more dangerous than others and should be avoided. Of the others, it might be a good idea to limit or avoid those as well. Below we'll look at each type individually to see where you might find it and how you might replace it.

Important: Although some plastics are considered "relatively safe" they still contain chemicals that can leach into your food, or environment, especially as plastic begins to age. It's a much more sustainable route to choose long-lasting, renewable, and natural materials instead. Not only will you decrease the likelihood of off-gassing in your home, you'll also reduce resources and save money over the long-run by investing well upfront.


#1 – PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – AVOID


PET is one of the most commonly used plastics in consumer products, and is found in most water and pop bottles, and some packaging.

It is intended for single use applications; repeated use increases the risk of leaching and bacterial growth.

PET plastic is difficult to decontaminate, and proper cleaning requires harmful chemicals. Polyethylene terephthalates may leach carcinogens.

Products made of #1 (PET) plastic should be recycled but not reused.



This plastic is commonly found in:

  • Plastic bottles (water, soft drinks, etc)
  • Polyester clothing
  • Furniture
  • Carpeting

Dangers of PET

PET contains two main components:

  • Acetaldehyde which has been linked to:


    • DNA damage
    • Abnormal muscle development
    • Alzheimer's
    • and is listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • Antimony has been linked to:


    • Soil pollution
    • Digestive issues
    • Lung, heart, liver, and kidney damage
    • Unknown whether it is a carcinogen


#2 – HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) – SAFE


HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic.

Products made of HDPE are reusable and recyclable.



This plastic is commonly found in:

  • Milk jugs
  • Plastic bottles
  • Hard hats
  • Water pipes
  • Plastic lumber

Dangers of HDPE

HDPE is one of the types of plastics that does NOT contain BPA (bisphenol A) or other commonly found toxic compounds. Because of this and its durability its a much safer plastic in terms of health risks. It is still derived from petroleum, and so secondary health and environmental risks from production of HDPE, as well as the limited amount that gets recycle, are still a big consideration. Because of its widespread use and primary safety, it is a hard one to avoid.


#3 – PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – AVOID

PVC-plasticPVC is dubbed the “poison plastic” because it contains numerous toxins which it can leach throughout its entire life cycle.

Almost all products using PVC require virgin material for their construction; less than 1% of PVC material is recycled.

Products made using PVC plastic are not recyclable.

While some PCV products can be repurposed, PVC products should not be reused for applications with food or for children’s use.


This plastic is commonly found in:

  • Shower curtains
  • Plastic food wrap
  • Children's toys
  • Teething rings
  • Cooking oil bottles
  • Pool toys, rafts, etc
  • Fencing
  • Pipes

Dangers of PVC

Of all types of plastics #3 is one of the most detrimental to human health. It includes:

  • Phthalates, which are linked to:




    • Endocrines disruption
    • Fetal development
    • Breast or testicular cancers
    • Autism
  • Vinyl chloride, linked to:


    • Cancer
    • Liver, lung, and kidney damage
    • Decrease in normal reproduction function
    • Brain, lung, and blood cancers
    • Ground and water pollution
  • Dioxins, which have been linked to:


    • Reproductive issues
    • Developmental problems
    • Hormone disruption
    • Immune impairment
    • And is a known human carcinogen

The #3 types of plastics often contain BPA (or its replacement BPS, which is proving just as dangerous). BPA has been linked to developmental issues during pregnancy and childhood, linking it to birth defects and neurological disorders. It's an endocrine disruptor, and also tied to asthma, breast cancer, heart disease, leukemia, prostate cancer and other issues, obesity, testicular cancer, thyroid issues, and more.


#4 – LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) – SAFE

LDPE-plasticLDPE is considered less toxic than other plastics, and relatively safe for use.

It is not commonly recycled, however, although this is changing in many communities today as more recycling programs gear up to handle this material. When recycled, LDPE plastic is used for plastic lumber, landscaping boards, garbage can liners and floor tiles.



This plastic is commonly found in:

  • Plastic bags
  • 6 pack rings
  • Tubing
  • Milk cartons
  • Soap containers
  • some clothing
  • some furniture

Dangers of LDPE

Although there are no known human health concerns, LDPE is sourced for fossil fuels and therefore not renewable, as well as not being biodegradable and poses a large issue for the environment since most LDPE (such as plastic bags) do not get recycled.

Some LDPE, however, is actually made from a renewable resource (sugar beet), but while this decreases the reliance on finite resources it doesn't solve the waste problem.


#5 – PP (Polypropylene) – AVOID

PP-plasticPolypropylene plastic is tough and lightweight, and has excellent heat-resistance qualities. It serves as a barrier against moisture, grease and chemicals. When you try to open the thin plastic liner in a cereal box, it is polypropylene.

Polypropylene is recyclable through some curbside recycling programs, but only about 3% of PP products are currently being recycled in the US. Recycled PP is used to make landscaping border stripping, battery cases, brooms, bins and trays.


This plastic is commonly found in:

  • Auto parts
  • Dispoable diapers
  • Disposable food containers
  • Industrial fibers
  • Kitchen items (cups, bottles, etc)
  • Sanitary/menstrual pads

Dangers of Type 5 Plastics

Scientists have found that PP can leach two chemical compounds (quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide) that interrupt human enzymes and brain receptors. This is one of the types of plastics formerly thought to be safe, and so much more research is needed on polypropylene.


#6 – PS (Polystyrene)

PS-plasticPolystyrene is an inexpensive, lightweight and easily-formed plastic with a wide variety of uses.

Recycling is not widely available for polystyrene products.

Polystyrene should be avoided where possible.


This plastic "styrofoam" is commonly found in:

  • Disposable knives, forks, spoons
  • Egg cartons
  • Foam cups/food packaging (clamshell)
  • Media cases
  • Office supplies
  • Packing peanuts
  • Toys

Dangers of Polystyrene

Because polystyrene is structurally weak and ultra-lightweight, it breaks up easily and is dispersed readily throughout the natural environment. Beaches all over the world have bits of polystyrene lapping at the shores, and an untold number of marine species have ingested this plastic with immeasurable consequences to their health.

Polystyrene contains both styrene and benzene, two dangerous chemical compounds linked to human health risks. Styrene has been shown to be toxic to the nervous system, hematological, cytogenetic, carcinogenic, and disruptive to menstrual cycles. Benzene is a known carcinogen, particularly leukemia (cancer of the blood), and linked to anemia, excessive bleeding, and other blood disorders, irregular menstrual cycles, low birth weight, bone marrow damage, and more.


#7 – Other (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN) – AVOID


plastic baby bottles

The #7 category was designed as a catch-all for polycarbonate (PC) and “other” plastics, so reuse and recycling protocols are not standardized within this category.

#7 plastics are not for reuse, unless they have the PLA compostable coding.



This plastic is commonly found in:

  • Baby Bottles
  • Sippy Cups
  • 5 gallon reusable bottles
  • Bottles, misc
  • Car Parts
  • Electrical wiring
  • Safety glasses

Dangers of Type 7 Plastics

The #7 types of plastics can be a variety of plastics, making it hard to determine their safety. And according to the Environmental Working Group, it often consist of polycarbonate, the plastic most likely to contain BPA (bisphenol A), which impacts development during pregnancy and childhood, BPA has been linked to neurological disorders, is an endocrine disruptor, and also tied to asthma, breast cancer, heart disease, leukemia, prostate cancer and other issues, obesity, testicular cancer, thyroid issues, and more.

BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic food containers often marked on the bottom with the letters “PC” by the recycling label #7. Some polycarbonate water bottles are marketed as ‘non-leaching’ for minimizing plastic taste or odor, however there is still a possibility that trace amounts of BPA will migrate from these containers, particularly if used to heat liquids.

A new generation of compostable plastics, made from bio-based polymers like corn starch, is being developed to replace polycarbonates. These are also included in category #7, which can be confusing to the consumer. These compostable plastics have the initials “PLA” on the bottom near the recycling symbol. Some may also say “Compostable.”


There are Better Solutions

Between the human health risks (those known and those we've yet to discover, because we're always discovering how things we thought were safe are actually making us sick) and the environmental impact of a product that is sourced from a non-renewable resource, often cheap and disposable, not made to last, and rarely recycled, it's important to question whether most types of plastics are really worth the "convenience". There is nothing convenient about cancer, birth defects, or a depleted eco-system.

When possible it is best to avoid #7 plastics, especially for children’s food. Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA.

So what bottles can you use?  Good question, personally I prefer glass or stainless steel.

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Source : eartheasy, sustainablebabysteps

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