Posted by Katie Altoft on August 25th, 2010
First it’s important to understand that not all plastics are created equal. Some plastics contain harmful chemicals that can leach out into our bodies, with a host of negative side effects. Understanding which plastics are safe, and for what uses, is no small feat.
Here’s a little rhyme I heard to keep in mind when shopping. 5 and 4, 1 and 2 – all the rest are bad for you. So check for the number inside the little recycling triangle on the bottom of your stuff and avoid the 3’s, 6’s and 7’s. Just to be on the safe side, you’ll likely want to go easy on the 1’s as well.
What’s the problem? Well, plastics contain a whole host of toxic substances that are put in there to make them strong, clear and flexible. From phthalates, to BisPhenol A, to antimony, these chemicals are accumulating in the environment and in our bodies, causing reproductive challenges and cancers to name but a few issues. And no one knows for sure how much is okay, which makes it very difficult to regulate and protect the public.
One of the best guides that I’ve seen to plastics is on the healthy child website http://healthychild.org/5steps/5_steps_5/?gclid=CIjg5df6s5wCFSMSagodPRuwnQ
This guide walks you through each of the various types, gives you some examples, and tells you about the challenges.
So what can you do with your lunches?
1. Avoid plastic – there are other options available, including stainless steel and glass. Where its feasible, consider switching out.
2. Use only the “safe ones”. Since an all stainless steel lunch can weigh several pounds, it may not be a great choice for the little ones, but particularly for your food containers, choose the safe options only.
3. Never, never, EVER heat food in plastics. Heating increases the rate of leaching, and puts it directly into your body.
4. Be extra careful with babies. Glass bottles are not much more expensive, and are a much safer option.
5. Limit use of cling wraps and baggies – these plastics can be less stable, not to mention less environmentally friendly.
It sounds daunting, but a little knowledge can help you significantly reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals in plastic.