Thursday, December 13, 2007

Plastics Primer

Toxic Nation E-News
Selecting your Plastics: A Break-down

Over the past month Toxic Nation has received a slew of phone calls and emails requesting information on the different plastics we use daily and their relative safety. The following is a description of each recycling number, its use and some potential hazards.
#1 PETE: Polyethylene terephthalate ethylene, used for soft drink, juice, water, detergent, cleaner and peanut butter containers. Scientists advise against the repeated use of plastic water bottles made from plastic type #1 PETE as there is evidence to suggest that such bottles leach a compound known as DEHA, which is classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen, as well as acetaldehyde, which has received the same designation from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
#2 HDPE: High density polyethylene, used in opaque plastic milk and water jugs, bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles and some plastic bags.
#3 PVC or V: Polyvinyl chloride, used for cling wrap, some plastic squeeze bottles, cooking oil and peanut butter jars, detergent and window cleaner bottles.
#4 LDPE: Low density polyethylene, used in grocery store bags, most plastic wraps and some bottles.
#5 PP: Polypropylene, used in most Rubbermaid, deli soup, syrup and yogurt containers, straws and other clouded plastic containers, including some baby bottles.
#6 PS: Polystyrene, used in Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carryout containers and opaque plastic cutlery.
#7 Other: Usually polycarbonate plastic, used in most plastic baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, “sport” water bottles, some metal food can liners, clear plastic “sippy” cups and some clear plastic cutlery. New bio-based and bio-degradable plastics may also be labeled as #7.
Plastic with bisphenol A is labeled in the #7 category, which also includes a wide variety of plastics and plastic mixtures that fall into the 'other' category. Unless this #7 is followed by the letters 'PC' (polycarbonate) there's no sure way to tell if the container contains bisphenol A or not.
Avoid using #7 plastics altogether and opt for safer choices for food and beverage storage. These better options include polypropylene (#5 PP), high density polyethylene (#2 HDPE), and low density polyethylene (#4 LDPE).
(Information provided from various sources, including the Smart Plastics Guide of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in the U.S.).

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