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Healthy Plastic Container Tips

Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008

Don't drink from them. Don't store food in them. And definitely don't microwave them. These are just a few things you may have heard recently about plastic bottles and containers. So what's all the fuss about? The biggest concern is that these products contain potentially carcinogenic chemicals and endocrine disrupters that may leach into food and drink.

Consumer-advocacy groups have scrutinized three plastics, in particular: polystyrene (basically Styrofoam); polyvinyl chloride, used to make PVC-based cling wrap; and polycarbonate plastic (think hard-plastic water bottles, kids' sippy cups, and even baby bottles). The FDA reports that all of these plastics are safe. But consumer-advocacy organizations -- such as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Environmental Working Group -- suggest otherwise.

For recycling purposes, plastics are assigned a number, which is marked on the bottom of containers. Avoid polystyrene (#6), polyvinyl chloride (#3), and polycarbonate (#7) plastics for storing food, as these are most likely to leach chemicals. Store and microwave food in glass or ceramic dishes (see Healthy Microwave Tips). Use old-fashioned parchment paper to pack sandwiches.

Babies and young children are at greater risk for health problems associated with the chemicals in plastics. Avoid bottles and cups made of polycarbonate. These contain bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disrupter. Evenflo makes glass baby bottles, and Born Free offers BPA-free plastic bottles and cups. Klean Kanteen makes stainless steel cups that can be fitted with a nipple or lid, and SIGG produces aluminum versions coated with water-based epoxy resin (in private testing, the lining has not been shown to leach BPA).

More Careful
Don't buy water in plastic bottles; not only is this habit wasteful, but there's no evidence that bottled water is any safer overall than tap water (see Healthy Water Filter Tips). Single-use water bottles can also be havens for bacteria if you refill and reuse them. Many reusable plastic water bottles are made of polycarbonate, so to reduce possible leaching, do not fill them with warm or hot liquids, and recycle old or scratched bottles. Your safest bet is probably a refillable metal water bottle, such as one from SIGG or Klean Kanteen.

Most Careful
Avoid any type of plastic in your kitchen whenever possible. Food packaged in plastic should be rewrapped in parchment or stored in glass or ceramic containers.

Invest in a metal water bottle to keep hydrated on the go.

Comments (9)

  • janetjaye 8 Jan, 2010

    I see a lot of questions regarding this article, dating back to April 2008, it is now January 2010. What about Tupperware? Saran Wrap, does not say anything about containing PVC, but boasts "no chlorine". Store brand Sealable Plastic Wrap does not mention any ingredients. Both say are safe for microwave use. Anyone know the answers? The article raises the awareness. "Google it." Happy 2010! Lets all try to be good stewards of the earth, its the only place we have to live!

  • Mama2threeprincesses 6 Mar, 2009

    I use BPA-free bottles and plan to use BPA-free sippy cups when my daughter gets bigger. But I am curious what you have to say about Tupperware? They have a product line called "Vent-n-Serve" and "Heat-n-Serve" that is made from a practically indestructible plastic (I forget the name of it), and they say it is safe for microwave use. What is your opinion about that and other Tupperware products?

  • yoshida 24 Feb, 2009

    Thank you for your information about plastic containers.
    It is most instructive and gives answer to my vague anxiety I always feel when I use them. I was impressed by your last two messages, telling us to avoid plastic
    containers and use metal water bottles.

  • OleBlueyes 3 Feb, 2009

    Most valuable information. I did not know about styrofoam/polystyrene, which is what the majority of restaurants send home leftovers in.

  • Learner10 16 Dec, 2008

    Thank you!!!!

  • SMILETU 16 Dec, 2008

    I want to thank you for reminding us about the plastic to avoid, and the added comment about not using the drinking bottles.
    I will check over all that I have for storing items being it dry or wet products.
    Even the plastic I use for kool-aid I plan on checking out when I return home from library.
    My grown children in Fl. reuse their plastic bottles and this I will pass on to them what you said about the bacteria.
    Thanks as ever for all the wonderful information....Merry Christmas "All"

  • marissabaca 27 Sep, 2008

    after reading this i have checked almost all of my plastics so far i haent found the harmful ones in this artical :) thanks for the info :)

  • ribbet 1 May, 2008

    Thank you for making this a lot easier to sort out my plastics. I had no idea that there were numbers assigned to these harmful plastics. I also have Tupperware and I too would like to know where to look.

  • weezer 22 Apr, 2008

    This was very interesting as I found that I had a number of the above noted "questionable/bad" plastics which I have now disposed of, however, can anyone tell me where "Tupperware" products fit?

    Thanks for the help!!