It turns out that plastic is not as solid as we thought it was. There are several types of plastic used in our homes that have been found to leach cancer-producing toxins, and many of them are commonly used to store food and beverages. The dangerous effects of these plastics range from hormone disruption, obesity and reproduction problems to cancer.
Some people question the research and say there hasn't been evidence to prove that plastics actually harm humans. But why take the risks, when there are easy and safe alternatives? Here are the plastics to avoid.
#3 PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is dangerous because of the dioxins produced during manufacturing. Dioxins are known to cause cancer, and they accumulate in fatty tissue, so are not easily flushed from our systems. The flexible type of PVC is commonly used to wrap meat in the US contains phthalates, which are suspected of causing cancer and problems with hormonal development. The hard type of PVC has been used in the building industry to make residential and commercial plumbing pipes which carry drinking water.
#6 PS is polystyrene, or styrofoam, which is commonly used for disposable plates, cups and carry-out containers. The styrene has been found to leach into foods, and may cause cancer or hormonal disruption.
#7 PC contains bisphenol A (BPA) which causes problems similar to those caused by phthalates. Other potential problems include possible insulin disruption which may lead to pancreas problems including Type 2 Diabetes. This type of plastic is commonly used in plastic baby bottles, plastic eating utensils and microwave oven cookware, as well as to line the metal containers of canned foods.
The good news is that there are some plastics that are safe to use. They have proven to be stable enough that they don't transfer chemicals into food or the environment. Here's a list of the most common plastics that are considered to be safe.
#2 HDPE has not been shown to have any negative health effects, and is recyclable.
#4LDPE is being used for beverage containers, and has not been shown to leach chemicals.
#5PP has not been shown to have any negative health effects, but is difficult to recycle.
#1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is most commonly used for beverage containers like sports water bottles. They are recyclable, but are only intended for a single use. Some studies have shown that the PET leaches into the beverages when these bottles are stored for long periods of time (several months), so they’re far from ideal. But the harmful effect of leaching appears to be limited to gastrointestinal distress with no long term effects.
PLA (polylactide) is made from starchy plants like corn. There is no need to recycle them because they biodegrade in less than 2 weeks.
Of course, the safest thing is to avoid using plastics whenever possible. That way, you won’t be adding to the growing surplus of non-biodegradable plastic that is multiplying all over the planet.