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What you can learn from the plastic recycling codes


THE CHEMICALS IN PLASTICS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Bisphenol A (BPA) mimics the hormone estrogen and may interfere with ovulation and
reproduction as well as brain-cell development. 
 
Where do you find it: BPA is a plasticizer that is found in (and leaches out of) products
such as polycarbonate water bottles, baby bottles, canned soups, beans, and other
foods as well as softdrinks. Nearly all can liners contain BPA.  Regular use, such as
dishwashing and heating, increases the chance that BPA is leaching out of your water
bottle or food storage container. 
 
Phthalates—including DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, and DIDP, and DNOP— have estrogen
mimicking properties and are linked to cancer and diseases of the kidneys, liver, and
other organs. The CDC recently did a study that found 75% of participants had
detectible levels of phthalates in their bodies. Babies born to mothers who were
exposed during pregnancy can be born with birth defects and development delays. 
 
Where do you find it: Phthalates are used in many plastic kids items, in vinyl boots
(and all other vinyl), but they are also found outside of plastics and are contained in
many of your cosmetics, skincare products, and frangrances. 
 
Polyvinyl chloride, a.k.a. PVC or vinyl, is a truly ugly plastic, one of the worst for
environmental and human health as it contains lead AND releases the super-toxin,
dioxin, when produced or destroyed. PVC also contains and can leach phthalates. 
 
PVC is used in many building supplies such as plumbing, and is commonly found in kids
toys (such as Barbie and inside Beanie Babies), rain coats and boots, cling-wraps (such
as used on meat), and bottles of cooking oil. 
 
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM THE PLASTIC RECYCLING CODES    

So you’ve gotten rid of your plastic water bottles, what about those plastic yoghurt
containers, plastic ziplock bags, and plastic Tupperware containers that are crowding
our cupboards, are they safe?  Here is a guide to help you more easily determine what
is what and which one to choose.
 
RECYCLING CODE                                           GENERAL SAFETY STATUS
#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)    Proceed with caution 
#2 high density polyethylene (HDPE)                 Considered Safer
#3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)                         Bad plastic
#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE)                   Considered Safer  
#5 polypropylene (PP)                                        Considered Safer
#6 polystyrene (PS)                                            Bad plastic
#7 other (usually polycarbonate).                       Mixed category–sometimes bad, sometimes not
PLA (polylactide)                                                 Considered safer
 
PLA plastics are made from renewable resources, e.g., corn, potatoes or sugar cane.
The starch is converted into polylactide acid (PLA). These plant-based plastics can’t
be recycled but they can be composted either in a municipal composter or in your
backyard compost heap.  
 
#7 plastics are often polycarbonate and thus linked to BPA,  #3 plastics are made
from vinyl or PVC, and #6 polysterene can leach styrene, which is another possible
carcinogen and hormone disrupter. 
 
Recent research has called into question #1 plastics too. These bottles are porous and
thus absorb flavors and bacteria.  Also, The National Geographic greenguide website,
says “In one Italian study, the amount of DEHP, an endocrine-disrupting phthalate and
a probable human carcinogen, in bottled spring water was found to increase after 9
months of storage in a PET bottle.” 



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