We use plastic everyday. So much so we now would struggle to do without it. Almost all of our food and produce comes in plastic, whether it’s a bottle, carton, plastic wrap or bag.
So if our food and drinks come in plastic it must be safe, right?
Well unfortunately this isn’t really the case and many of us end up putting ourselves in a situation were we are damaging our health and not even realising it.
There are seven types of plastics and some are safer than others. In fact you’ll be code checking in no time as some have some cause scary sh*t! These plastics come with a number code in the recyling triangle as seen below.
Now let’s have a look at them and go through the breakdowns of these plastics we all have and use.
It is no surprise that plastic is bad for the environment. Supermarkets now charge 5p a bag to make us more responsible and use less. We end up buying them none the less and using them for other things and occassionaly remembering them or a re-usable bag before shopping. (p.s some re-usuable bags require 100 uses before being effective to environment!).
As we are becoming more “green” or as reality has it “less lazy”, we are trying to re-use more and more things and not just bin or recycle. This can be great for many things but a lot of them not so much.
One of the most common re-uses of plastics is the one that has highest potential for problems. People using the same bloody plastic bottle everyday for weeks on end.
Water stagnating in it, with a “freshen it up” before each session which involves filling it up and emtying it then refilling before heading onto the gym floor.
This aint so good folks.
Not because it looks scruffy, but because these bottles are only designed for a 1 time use!
Read more about this massive mistake below:
Plastic Number 1 – Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
This is the plastic generally used for your bottles of water we have been talking about. It is also the plastic used for fizzy drinks, tomato sauce etc.
PET is identified with the number 1 which you will find printed on the bottle, usually at the bottom.
This plastic is considered safe and is produced to be used only one time and for the product intended.
Re-using these products however is not recommended and can in fact be dangerous.
PET has been found to break down over time and leach into substances when the bottles were reused (that bottle you keep filling up at the gym could be causing you issues). The toxin DEHA also appeared in the water sample from reused water bottles, which has been shown to cause liver problems, possible reproductive difficulties, and is suspected to cause cancer.
Bottles that have been stored incorrectly, in direct sunlight or kept on the shelf for too long are also at a greater risk of damage and deterioration. That expiry date isn’t for the water, it’s for the effect of the packaging!
Safe to say that this is a product you should use once then re-cycle, it has been made for one use and is safe when used correctly.
So do not keep it in your gym bag for re-use, buy a proper bottle.
If using for regular drinking, buy a stainless steel flask such as Klean Kanteen, they last and are a safer choice when re-using regularly.
Plastic Number 2 – High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Polyethylene (Polythene) is one of the worlds most popular plastics. HDPE is considered a low-hazard plastic, which is used for most thin gauge carrier bags, fresh produce bags and some bottles and caps.
This plastic is considered as safe for use in food and drink, so if your bottle and food containers are number 2 they are ok.
If you are like me and a lot of other folk who like to prepare food and eat on the go, then this is definitley the plstic for the job. BUT…if you are heating food in the microwave it is always safer to use glass containers and avoid heating in plastic.
Plastic Number 3 – Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
PVC plastic can be rigid or flexible, and is commonly found in bags for bedding, shrink wrap, cling film, plastic toys, table cloths and shower curtains. PVC can also be found in car interiors and vinyl flooring, resulting in the release of toxic chemicals into the air.
PVC is one of the toxic plastics that should be avoided. It contains toxic chemicals including DEHP, a type of phthalate used as a plastics softener and DINP. The National Toxicology Program concluded that high levels of DINP may adversely affect human reproduction or development. Phthalates have been nicknamed the “gender-bending” chemicals, as they have been shown to cause males of many species to become more female.
Women have been shown to have raised levels with exposure via cosmetics and materials but it was only in males that these levels correlated with infertitlity and issues with testicular development. These chemicals have disrupted the endocrine systems of wildlife, causing testicular cancer, genital deformations, low sperm counts and infertility in a number of species and this has been found in humans also.
How to avoid PVC (If you can it will be with great difficulty but here’s some tips)
- Purchase a shower curtain made from organic hemp, bamboo or PEVA. PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) is a non-vinyl (PVC-free), chlorine-free, biodegradable plastic.
- Air out the car before getting in and keep dust free.
- Avoid inflatable structures, air mattresse
- Avoid using cling film and toys made with PVC.
- ENSURE that all baby toys are labeled to be PVC, Phthalate and BPA free.
Plastic #4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
And we’re back into the safety zone with number 4!
Another plastic that is considered a low hazard, less scary and will allow you to have comfort when choosing a plastic that wont cause your body to go mental!
LDPE is used in bags for foods as well as in paper milk cartons and hot and cold beverage cups. While LDPE does not contain BPA, it MAY pose risks of leaching estrogenic chemicals, similar to HDPE.
Plastic #5: Polypropylene (PP)
PP plastic is used to make containers for dairy products, medications and takeaway containers (sometimes).
While polypropylene is said to have a high heat tolerance making it unlikely to leach chemicals (at last a bit of a phew).
So if you are microwaving your meals in plastic containers then no. 5 is the way to go.
NOTE: microwavable/dishwasher safe only means that the plastic will not warp when heated. It does not imply that it is a healthy practice. A better choice is to use glass containers to heat foods and to hand wash plastic instead of using the dishwasher.
Plastic #6: Polystyrene (PS)
Polystyrene you may also known as Styrofoam.
New York and other cities around the world have banned this substance for use by businesses.
It is used to make cups, plates, bowls, takeaway containers along with other disposable items used for food. This is a worry considering the massive health risks ascosiated with this product, food and heat.
Polystyrene contains the toxic substances Styrene and Benzene, suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins that are hazardous to humans.If this is not a warning not to let this material in contact with food then what the hell are we worried about when it comes to germs and the 5 second rule??
The amount of styrene that leaches from polystyrene containers has been found to be massively affected by temperature. So using hot food and drinks is defintely not recomended. Hot foods and liquids (like your hot takeaway coffe) kick start thel breakdown of the Styrofoam. This causes some toxins to be absorbed into our bloodstream and tissue, how bloody good is that.
So while this material may be suitable for packaging your tv or computer, just try and avoid contact between Polystyrene and your food!
Plastic #7: Other
Whatever other plastic not mentioned or blended plastics are generally bundled into this category. NUMBER 7, another amber and one to keep an eye out for.
Hard to single out the toxins for this category as you’re not always sure what’s in it. It does include polycarbonate, a plastic made from BPA and the BPA alternative BPS.
BPA? You will see loads of bottles with “BPA free” if not keep an eye out cause it’s definitley one to avoid. BPA is a harmful synthetic estrogenand has been known to be used in water bottles, sports bottles and lining for metal food cans. Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Great, another one getting close to our food supply.
BPA is not something you want to be having your food in contact with as it has possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses, babies and children.
Bisphenol – S (BPS), has been used as an alternative to BPA but this also has it’s danger to health and is not massively different to BPA! They are both endocrine disrupters which have the ability to disrupt your body’s endocrine system, affecting your hormones. Sound good? yeah, I didn’t think so either. This is especially worrying when children and babies are invloved, although evidence is also very strong showing these chemicals are influencing adults too.
Cases of decreased sperm count and quality, early puberty, disrupted reproductive cycles and many more concenring health issues such as cancer.
Tips for Cutting Down on Your Exposure to Dangerous Plastics
- Try to purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic.
- Use reusable shopping bags (To be environmentally effective Polyethylene bags need to be used four times, a polypropylene bag must be used at least 11 times, and a cotton bag must be used at least 131 times).
- Use your own flask for coffee and stop using takeaway cups.
- Buy a glass or stainless steel water bottle instead of buying bottled water or re-using bottles.
- Store foods in glass containers rather than plastic tubs and bags.
- Avoid disposable utensils and tableware.
- Check the plastic number, now you know what they mean you can avoid the toxic crap one!
REMEMBER “2,4,5 to help you stay alive”
A little bit of a dark and foreboding rhyme, but a good reminder on what plastics are safer, or more improtanyl if it isn’t one of these number keep it away from food and drink!
Hope this helps raise some awareness and doesn’t scare the crap out of ever buying, eating, drinking or cause you to move into a hole in the ground miles away from any cities and eat grass.
Now get checking your tupperware and LIFT, LIVE, LEARN.