Have you ever noticed the numbers on the bottom of your plastic bottles, bowls, drink bottles, toys etc… if you were like me you may not have considered what they meant before you were responsible for the health of a tiny human being.
For the super busy the safer numbers are 2, 4 and 5 of course if you are uber green you’d avoid them all together in favour of glass or stainless steel.
I put quite a few things on the bench when I started to learn about plastics and the toxic effects on babies. My partner just shook his head as I started tossing out all the almost brand new stuff I’d bought, but I felt better for it and at the end of the day we’re all just doing the best we can, Right?
Some days just call for some safe and easy plastic – I’m only a part time crunchy mum! I love the stainless bottles and ceramic plates I replaced some of our plastic with. Some days I take the easy road and if he’ll drink from a plastic bottle, I’ll take that as a win! I would love to be an all or nothing person, but really I figure 80% good is much better than not doing anything.
The best summary of the safe numbers I found online was from Baby Green Thumb which I’ve shared below.
The following graphic is a quick summary of the plastics labels and their “threat” level.
The following sections provide information on each type of plastic.
Plastic #1 – PET or PETE stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic resin and a form of polyester.
Where is PETE found?
PETE is commonly used to package:
- Household cleaners
- Soft drinks
- Salad dressings
- Peanut butter
Studies have found levels of antimony (a toxic chemical) leaching from water bottles that have been placed in heat for prolonged times. Although PETE does not contain BPA or Phthalates, it’s always best to make sure that your water bottles are not temperature abused. PETE plastic should not be reused because cleaning detergents and high temperatures can cause chemicals to leach out of the plastic. Plastic #1 is only intended for one time use.
Plastic #2 – High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is a polyethylene thermoplastic made from petroleum. HDPE is hard, opaque and can withstand somewhat high temperatures.
Where is HDPE found?
HDPE is used in the manufacturing of toys, and the packaging of:
- Laundry detergent
- Milk jugs
- Folding chairs & tables
No known health concerns.
Plastic #3 – Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a thermoplastic polymer. Through the use of phthalates, a plasticizer, it can be made softer and more flexible. Read about the harm of phthalates here.
Where is PVC found?
- Shower curtains
- Cling wrap
- Pool toys
- Inflatable structures
- Vinyl IV bags used in neo-natal intensive care
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.
- 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.
- Avoid using cling wrap made with PVC.
- Avoid inflatable structures, air mattresses, and toys made with PVC. Note: Aerobed pakmat and Aerobed Ecolite are PVC and phthalate free.
- Choose all baby toys, pool toys, and bath toys that are labeled to be PVC, Phthalate and BPA free.
Plastic #4 – Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a thermoplastic made from petroleum. It can be found translucent or opaque. It is flexible and tough but breakable.
Where is LDPE found?
- Juice and milk cartons (as the water-proof inner and outer layer)
- Most plastic grocery bags
- Some packaging material
No known health concerns.
Plastic #5 – Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer. It is strong, tough, has a high resistance to heat and acts as a barrier to moisture.
Where is Polypropylene found?
- Yogurt & margarine tubs
- Plastic cups & baby bottles
- Kitchenware, microwavable plastic containers and lids
Most PP are microwavable safe and dishwasher safe. 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 alternative is using glass containers to heat foods and to hand wash plastic instead of using the dishwasher.
Plastic #6 – Polystyrene (PS) is a petroleum-based plastic. It can either be hard or used in the form of styrofoam.
Where is Polystyrene found?
Polystyrene is widely used in packaging materials and insulation. Some common items include:
- Disposable cutlery
- CD and DVD cases
- Egg cartons
- Foam cups & to-go foam packaging from restaurants.
According to the Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long term exposure to small quantities of styrene can cause neurotoxic (fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping), hematological (low platelet and hemoglobin values), cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities), and carcinogenic effects. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Ways to avoid Polystyrene:
- Package left over foods from a restaurant in your own glass or stainless steel containers.
- Avoid styrofoam cups or plates and instead use stainless steel, glass, or bamboo products.
- Bring your own silverware to fast-food restaurants instead of using their plastic ones.
Plastic #7 can be a little tricky as it stands for “Other” which may or may not contain BPA. It is commonly used to label Polycarbonate (PC). The letters PC may be present with the recycling symbol, which would indicate that the product is made with polycarbonate.
Polycarbonate is derived from BPA. Read more about the harm of BPA here.
Where is Polycarbonate found?
- Electrical wiring
- CD/DVD cases
- Baby bottles
- 3 and 5 gallon reusable bottles
BPA has been found to be an endocrine disruptor. Choose bottles made with the #1, #2, #4, or #5 recycling codes.
In conclusion, plastic products marked with the numbers 2, 4 and 5 are the safer choices. Regardless of what plastic you use, avoid exposing your plastics to high temperatures (microwave, dishwasher) and use mild detergents for cleaning. Since there is no guarantee that plastics will not leach out harmful chemicals, I suggest playing it safe by trying to avoid plastic when possible.
There you have it! A quick guide to what the numbers mean on the plastics you use with your baby. If you are keen to know more about creating a low tox environment for your baby, I can’t sing the praises of Alexx Stuart enough – a great read is her Top 5 tips on bringing up a low tox bub. She has an empowering online course that shares her wealth of knowledge. She’s also realistic enough to know that being completely no tox is near impossible, so focuses on educating her participants to make the best choices they can. (This isn’t sponsored, it’s just a post to book mark the plastic numbers so we can find them easily when needed)
You may also like this great TED talk on the effect of toxins on babies.
That’s all folks! Have a fabulous long weekend x