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Which Plastics Are Safe?

Which Plastics Are Safe?

The news about plastics has been pretty alarming lately, causing some of us to go dashing for the water bottles to see what kind of plastic they are—and find out if we’ve been unwittingly poisoning our children and ourselves with chemicals leaching into the water from them.

If you’ve been concerned, here is a handy chart that identifies the good, bad, and OK plastics and where they are found. Find out here:

1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Used to make soft drink, water, sports drink, ketchup, and salad dressing bottles, and peanut butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars.
GOOD: Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.

2 High density polyethylene (HDPE)
Milk, water, and juice bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, and grocery, trash, and retail bags.
GOOD: Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.

3 Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
Most cling-wrapped meats, cheeses, and other foods sold in delicatessens and groceries are wrapped in PVC.
BAD: To soften into its flexible form, manufacturers add “plasticizers” during production. Traces of these chemicals can leach out of PVC when in contact with foods. According to the National Institutes of Health, di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), commonly found in PVC, is a suspected human carcinogen.

4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
Some bread and frozen food bags and squeezable bottles.
OK: Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones, but not as widely recycled as #1 or #2.

5 Polypropylene (PP)
Some ketchup bottles and yogurt and margarine tubs.
OK: Hazardous during production, but not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones. Not as widely recycled as #1 and #2.

6 Polystyrene (PS)
Foam insulation and also for hard applications (e.g. cups, some toys)
BAD: Benzene (material used in production) is a known human carcinogen. Butadiene and styrene (the basic building block of the plastic) are suspected carcinogens. Energy intensive and poor recycling.

7 Other (usually polycarbonate)
Baby bottles, microwave ovenware, eating utensils, plastic coating for metal cans
BAD: Made with biphenyl-A, a chemical invented in the 1930s in search for synthetic estrogens. A hormone disruptor. Simulates the action of estrogen when tested in human breast cancer studies. Can leach into food as product ages.

Read more: Home, Health & Safety,

Adapted from Green Remodeling, by David Johnston and Kim Master (New Society Publishers, 2004).Copyright (c) 2004 by David Johnston and Kim Master. Reprinted by permission of New Society Publishers.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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+ add your own
3:25AM PST on Dec 12, 2014

Choose well

4:44AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

We anteaters use our tongues.

9:31AM PDT on Aug 26, 2014

This other article site says differently about the numbers. So confusing!

10:15PM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

thanks for the thoughtful sharing in comments. i can always count on Care2.

12:36PM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

if you're looking for a summary of more updated info on plastics and some ideas and resources to help avoid unsafe plastic exposure, check out my recent blog post:

10:28AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Gabriel is right- this article contains outdated information and should just be removed. PETE leaches BPA, 1) especially when it is squeezed (water bottles) and 2) simply degrades with time.

12:53PM PDT on May 5, 2013

Some comments conflict with the article....I'm confused now

4:19AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

I fully agree but to be honest I doubt any admins are even monitoring comments from the general public on old articles like this one. It's shocking that it's #1 when "plastic health" is typed in Google!

8:14PM PDT on Apr 28, 2013

Is this article just as accurate as it was when it was published 5 years ago? I don't want articles in my email that are years old, unless they're edited showing appropriate updates in reality

can you just remove this phony article from your website? its not truthful at all. at least up date it or something...

6:01AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

[[[Why don't they research things that might be harmful BEFORE they're put out there for people to buy? Answer: usual thing....greed. Guess Humanity should be given an "F" if it were graded.]]]

Greed plays a large part of it. If profit can be made from anything with no visibly linked negative health effects then profit will be made even if prior research shows that the item in question is NOT healthy. Mass population experiments are the easiest way to determine long term health effects of any product on a large scale. When the truth finally does leak out it's up to us to make the changes in our own lives. The manufacturers will follow our lead. Wherever we go their profit goes too.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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