Types of Plastic & Their Health Effects

I have to say, I’m not a fan of plastic. There are just too many health issues associated with it.  I’ve replaced a lot of plastic in my kitchen/home with glass. It’s taken time to do this but I figure that each container I replace reduces the amount of chemicals we’re exposed to. While avoiding plastic altogether is the safest bet, sometimes that can be hard to do. Here is a guide to the various types of plastic that will help you choose the safer options when there is no other option:

#1 (PET or PETE) This is a very common plastic, most commonly used with bottled water. This type of plastic is intended to be used only ONCE and then recycled. This type has caused developmental delays in unborn babies and young children born to workers exposed to the chemical.
My advice is stay avoid water bottles whenever possible and never reuse them. There is more to the whole bottled water issue than just the health of the plastic it’s packaged in. Most bottles aren’t being recycled and the water that’s in them usually isn’t any better than tap water anyway.

#2 (HDPE) Research is still being carried out regarding this plastic but so far it appears to be the safest option available.

#3 (Vinyl or PVC) A component of PVC called phthalates causes many of the problems associated with this plastic. Potential health effects include: endocrine disruption (mimics estrogen), asthma, allergic symptoms, decrease in sperm count, DNA damage in sperm, & brain cancer. Phthalates can be found in such products as toys, wallpaper, cosmetics and anything made of vinyl. The European Union, Fiji, Argentina & Mexico have already banned phthalates from being used in plastic toys for young children (Interesting that the U.S. still hasn’t banned it. Europe usually seems to be ahead of us health-wise).

#4 (LDPE) Research ongoing. Appears to be a somewhat safe option. The downside is this type may not always be accepted in recycling programs.

#5 (PP) Research ongoing. The second-best plastic option.

#6 (PS) (One form is “styrofoam") Possible health effects: Endocrine disruption that can cause serious reproductive & developmental problems. Hot, oily foods are especially bad in this plastic as they cause the container to leach the chemical, styrene. This type should especially be avoided by pregnant women.

#7 (Other) This plastic often contains Bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical that many are trying to avoid in plastic baby bottles. BPA can be found in “dental sealants, eyeglass lenses, toys, consumer electronics, CDs, DVDs, medical equipment, cans, and reusable water bottles” (Source 2). BPA is also used as the lining in metal food cans (Grrr. That one makes me mad!). Possible health effects include: reproductive system damage/cancer, low sperm count and early puberty.

Choose glass whenever possible!
Best plastics: #2, #4, #5
Worst plastics: #3, #6, #7

Here’s a handy guide to the plastic codes that I keep in my purse: Plastic Code Quick Guide

Life Without Plastic: Plastic Types chart
Environmental Working Group: Are Plastics Safe?

  • great post thanks for sharing that with us , there are just too many wasted plastics out there need a better solution