Is Your Kitchen Full of Unsafe Plastics?


If you've seen the movie The Graduate, you might remember the classic scene in which the main character is told that the future can be summed up in one word: Plastics. Unfortunately, the person giving that advice pretty much nailed it — plastics are now everywhere. Manufacturers use plastics more than any other material to create and package products. The bad news is, many types of plastic contain endocrine disruptors and other dangerous chemicals. If you use containers made of those types to store food, those chemicals can leach into your food and affect your metabolism and your overall health.

You can tell which plastics to avoid by checking the numbers printed on the bottom of the containers. Here are the ones you should stop using:

  • #3 — Polyvinyl chloride (often abbreviated PVC or V): PVC is found in bottles that contain cooking oils, cling wrap, the clear wrap around deli meats and cheeses, plumbing pipes, shower curtains, and toys. This type of plastic contains hormone-disrupting phthalates and cancer-causing dioxins that can leach out when the plastic comes into contact with heat, food, water, air, or our bodies.
    Alternatives: Choose Glad wrap, Saran premium wrap, or Saran Cling Plus wrap (which do not contain PVC) or store your food in glass. Buy cooking oil in glass bottles. Don't ever microwave your food in plastic — instead, use parchment paper or wax paper.
  • #6 — Polystyrene (Styrofoam; often abbreviated PS): Polystyrene is another big no. It's found in your typical take-out containers, disposable coffee cups, and egg cartons. The materials used to create polystyrene are all known or suspected carcinogens, and when PS gets hot, it can release chemicals into foods.
    Alternatives: Buy eggs in cardboard containers and don't drink your coffee from Styrofoam cups. If you can't avoid polystyrene packaging, transfer any food into a glass or ceramic container ASAP.
  • #7 — Polycarbonate (often abbreviated PC): Polycarbonate is found in baby bottles, microwave ovenware, stain-resistant food storage containers, eating utensils, the plastic liners of almost all food and soft-drink cans, Lexan containers, old Nalgene or other hard-plastic drinking bottles, 5-gallon water jugs, and building materials. Hundreds of studies have linked bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical in polycarbonate plastic, with harmful endocrine-disrupting effects, such as early puberty in girls, abnormal breast tissue and prostate growth, and lower sperm count.
    Alternatives: Use glass baby bottles and switch to stainless steel or ceramic drinking bottles. Limit your exposure from canned foods like beans by rinsing the food thoroughly before you eat it.


A few types of plastic are okay to use because they don't contain as many toxins. These are PET or PETE (#1 plastic, the type used in many beverage bottles), HDPE (#2 plastic, used in some Tupperware products), LDPE (#4 plastic), and PP (#5 plastic, used in yogurt containers). While these types are okay, I say the fewer plastics in your life, the better. Whenever possible, look for alternatives such as glass, stainless steel, and ceramics.

Have another suggestion related to this post?  Please feel free to share a comment below so we can all benefit from good information to make life better.

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