How Safe Is Your Plastic Container?

Look around your home and take note of how many plastic items surround you. Food containers to water jugs, cling wrap, children’s toys even your microwave cover. Plastic has become a main stay in our lives for its durability, ease of use and convenience. But it is one that comes with serious consequences.

Evidences have shown that plastic, a synthetic material made from a wide range of chemicals, is making its way into our bodies. The process is called chemical leeching. Over time, these chemical compounds accumulate and have the ability to trigger, manipulate and alter significant biological changes in our human bodies.

What we really need is know our plastic categorization codes – known as RIC or Resin Identification Codes. Look at the bottom of your plastic products. You will find a triangle with a number in the middle ranging from 1 to 7. This number tells you the kind of plastic (or resin) the product is made of. Knowing this, you can manage how much chemical leeching you and your family are exposed to.


Code: 1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Safety Factor: Good

PET is generally considered safe. This plastic has a thin and clear appearance, most often used for bottling water, mouthwash, ketchup, soda and juice, salad dressing, jam, jelly and pickles. This plastic appears safe for single use and is not known to leech any chemicals suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.

Code: 2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Safety Factor: Good

 HDPE is considered a low-hazard plastic and used for water and milk bottles, bottles for cleaning supplies, toiletries and plastic grocery bags. This is a thicker, milkier and more opaque looking plastic, not known to leech any chemicals suspected of causing cancer and disrupting hormones.

Code: 3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Safety Factor: Bad

PVC is found almost everywhere because it is very versatile. In its rigid form, PVC is found in plastic toys, bags and drinking cups. In its flexible form, PVC is found in shrink wrap, meat, cheese and deli wrapping, table cloths and bibs. To get this soft flexible form, manufacturers add “plasticizers” and they leech out when in contact to our food and water. These chemicals are easily accumulated in our bodies. According to National Institutes of Health, PVC chemical compounds are proven human carcinogen.

Code: 4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Safety Factor: Good

LDPE is considered another low-hazard plastic used in bags for breads, frozen food bags and squeezable bottles. This soft and flexible category of plastic is one of the safest and not known to leech any chemicals suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones. But it is not as recyclable friendly as plastics code 1 and 2.

Code: 5. Polypropylene (PP)
Safety Factor: Good

PP plastic is hard but flexible. Used to make containers for yogurt, margarine, drinking straws, takeaway food containers and diapers. Polypropylene is said to have high heat tolerance and unlikely to leech chemicals. This category of plastic is considered one of the safest and not suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.

Code: 6. Polystyrene (PS)
Safety Factor: Bad

PS, more commonly known as Styrofoam, is used to make cups, plates, takeaway containers, meat trays and toys. Polystyrene is known to leech toxic chemical – styrene, which is linked to cancer and has potential to damage nervous system. Polystyrene plastics are sensitive to temperature. The higher the temperature, the more styrene will leech out. This means that placing hot foods and beverages (ie. hot coffee in styrofoam cups) is very dangerous for health and needs to be avoided.

Code: 7. Others
Safety Factor: Bad

This is the catch-all category that products made from all other resin plastics fall into, making it difficult to know for sure how safe or not the product is. It includes polycarbonate (PC), nylon and acrylic. Given this, there is a good chance any plastic product with code 7 will contain toxic leeching chemicals. Two of which are bisphenol-A (BPA) and bisphenol-S (BPS); both known as endocrine disruptors. They mimic and interfere with the body’s hormonal activity and disrupt the endocrine system. Glands of the endrocine system and hormones are responsible for regulating your mood, tissue function, metabolism and sexual reproductive processes. Code 7 plastics are used to make baby milk bottles, sports bottles, plastic cutlery and 18-litre water jugs.

Now that its done, we know code 1, 2, 4 and 5 is good to use. If you see 3, 6 or 7, put it down and find an alternative.

If you have a memory bank of a goldfish like me, its unlikely you will remember which code is good and which is not when the time comes. Here’s my trick. Look at the palm of your hands and fold your middle finger down. The fingers you have still up (that is your thumb, index finger, ring finger and pinky) are the codes that are safe. Bingo.


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