I try not to get too paranoid about each new story that comes in my Inbox, telling me about poisonous this and deadly that. I am usually carefree when it comes to germs and bacteria, because I believe that a little dirt is actually good for you. (There’s an established hypothesis that if an immune system is not challenged early, it can increase the risk of developing allergies and illnesses- but that’s another story.) Also, some things in life we just can’t control, like: the pollution my kids and I have to contend with while were at the park; or the chlorine in the pool we swim in. But, when my research led me to an article saying that my baby bottles and the containers where I stock my food have leaching toxins, I started to get scared.
Reading more, I realized that NOT ALL PLASTICS are harmful. National Geographic has an excellent Green Guide summarizing the best and worst plastics. A word to the wise:
Some of our plastic products have a number at the bottom, inside the Recycle sign. Check the number on the bottom of your plastic. The best plastics are numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5, and the worst are numbers 3, 6 and 7.
GOOD and LOW RISK
1. Plastics made with PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Examples: Disposable soft drink and water bottles, cough-syrup bottles
2. Plastics made with HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Examples: Toys, liquid detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, juice bottles, motor oil bottles, butter and yogurt tubs, cereal box liners
4. Plastics made with LDPE (low density polyethylene)
Examples: Squeezable bottles, bread, frozen food, cling wrap, grocery bags and sandwich bags
*Do note though that even if these are not toxic, they are non-recyclable. So try to still reduce your use of these plastics.
5. Plastics made with PP (polypropylene)
Examples: Some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws
WORST and HIGH RISK
3. Plastics made with V (Vinyl) or PVC
Examples: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, plumbing pipes, wire jacketing, medical equipment
*PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don’t let the plastic touch food. Never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.
6. Plastics made with PS (polystyrene), also STYROFOAM
Examples: Disposable plates and cups, coffee cups, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases
Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. These are notoriously difficult to recycle too. There goes our low maintenance parties and coffee breaks!
7. Plastics made of Polycarbonate or PC
Examples: Baby bottles, Reusable water bottles, Stain-resistant food-storage containers, medical storage containers, Sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
This is the plastic that has me worried! Studies have shown it can leach potential hormone disruptors. Here is the New York Times article stating that Canada is most likely to name it as toxic. If you want to read on it further, here’s another article from Scientific American on the growing concern over the BPA found in plastics.
So what’s a mother to do? I discontinued using disposables for leftovers and bought ceramic and glass instead. Also, no more Styrofoam doggie-bags or plastic utensil parties for us. Additionally, I would have to toss my daughter’s ever-reliable water bottle and consider alternatives. There are currently a few available such as Sigg aluminum bottles (There’s a local distributor of Sigg bottles. They have most of the designs from P1500 up. Call 632-8932532/33 or email SIGGswitzerland@gmail.com), Stainless Steel KleanKanteen and BPA-free Camelbak bottles. As for my baby bottles (*grumble), Avent claims that: “under the most severe conditions of use, the US FDA believes that this level of exposure to adults and infants is safe.” However, I am taking this with a pinch of salt. I recently discovered new baby bottles in Rustans that are BPA-free. Still, as they always say, Breast is Best.
*On another note, if you are looking for a biodegradable plastic bags supplier, a Philippine manufacturer called United Polyresin is already doing it. I contacted them for our company’s flower sleeves, and they do have environmentally-friendly plastic bags.