Plastic Safety Information (a tired parent’s refresher)–

There is a great deal of information to keep in one’s head as a parent. Managing food, moods, bodily functions (fun!), and activities is enough to keep your head spinning.

Through the years I have done lots of research on plastics. Which ones to avoid, which ones to use if you must, etc. At times, though, my memory fails and I ask myself, which number plastic means what? So, listed below, are some resources for helping navigate the plastic jungle.

This guide from CHEC is a great short summary of what plastics to avoid (well, all of them, but at times this is not practical!) and it has great tips for dealing with packages and food storage.

Shopper’s Guide to Plastics and Food

Here is another guide that is worth printing out and putting on your fridge. For sleep deprived parents, the products in RED are the ones to avoid.

Plastic Products at a Glance

And as a rule, it isn’t a good idea, ever, to microwave plastic. The heating causes the chemicals in the plastic to leach into the food. The is helped by the fat in the food, which expedites the process. Click here for more information.

Yikes! Did you know that plastic “cling wrap” is made from PVC (aka: the poison plastic)? Read here for an article about this, and visit here for tons of information about PVC, which is in countless products for children and the home (including many building plumbing and building materials). You can tell a plastic is PVC when it is labeled with the #3. PVC can contain lead, and uses a number of troublesome chemicals called phthalates to make the plastic soft. These phthalates are endocrine disruptors which have been linked to problems in the development of the male reproductive system and the brain development of infants.

Don’t have time to read the links? Here is the quick, tired-I’ve-got-other-things to-do version:

Avoid: Plastics labeled #3, #6, #7
Safer Plastics (notice I didn’t say safe-): #1, #2, #4, #5
Never microwave plastic, limit putting it in the dishwasher
Don’t use plastic cling wrap, or if you do, don’t let it touch your food.

How’s that for boiling it down? Writing this helped me refresh my mind about plastics, and I hope it was of some help to you, too.

11 Responses to Plastic Safety Information (a tired parent’s refresher)–

  1. Heather January 9, 2008 at 8:46 am #


  2. katy January 9, 2008 at 5:12 pm #

    Heather, I had wondered about that too. I found out that Mendela bags are BPA and DEHP (in PVC plastic) free (hooray!) I have yet to look into the other brands but plan to. I'll post or comment when I find out. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Dr. George Bittner July 2, 2008 at 6:12 pm #

    You and your readers have well-justified concerns about the estrogenic activity (EA) released from plastics that have been know to cause adverse health problems. While estrogens (the female sex hormones) occur naturally in the body, many scientific studies have shown that significant health problems can occur when chemicals are ingested that mimic or block the actions of these female sex hormones; the fetus, newborn, or young child is especially vulnerable. These health-related problems (some of which you mentioned in your article) include early puberty in females, reduced sperm counts in males, altered functions of reproductive organs, obesity, altered behaviors, and increased rates of some breast, ovarian, testicular, and prostate cancers.However, avoiding plastics that contain BPA or phthalates (or VNC plastics) does not mean that you safe from ingesting chemicals in plastics that have EA. BPA and phthalates are just two of several thousand chemicals that exhibit EA. These chemicals leach from almost all plastics sold today, including some of the “safer” plastics you mentioned – polyethylene (HDPE or LDPE), polypropylene and PET. That is, plastics advertised as BPA-free or phthalate-free are not EA-free; almost all these plastics still leach chemicals having EA – and often have more total EA than plastics that release BPA or phthalates. Various plastics manufacturers are attempting to solve this problem by removing chemicals having EA (e.g., BPA, phthalates) one at a time. This approach is not an appropriate solution because hundreds of chemicals used in plastics exhibit EA, not just BPA and phthalates. This is a marketing-driven solution, not a health-driven solution. The appropriate health-driven solution is to manufacture safer plastics that are EA-free. This is not a pie-in-the-sky solution, as the technology already exists to produce EA-free plastics that also have the same advantageous physical properties. In fact, some of these advanced-technology EA-free plastics are already in the marketplace and many more EA-Free plastic items could be commercially available quickly — if consumers were to demand them.George D. Bittner, PhDProfessor of Biology,The University of Texas at AustinFounder: CertiChem, PlastiPure

  4. Anonymous January 3, 2009 at 11:33 am #

    How about the safety of drinking tea or coffee from clear plastic tea mugs labeled with number "Bodum" and 9?

  5. Fake Plastic Fish April 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    Katy, thanks for this quick primer. I have to agree with Dr. Bittner that all plastics can leach estrogenic chemicals. Even #1 and #5 have been found to leach recently. (I can find you the reference for that if you want.) To me, knowing that a chemical is not in a plastic is okay, but it doesn't tell me what IS in it, which is why I feel skeptical of the new BPA-free PES baby bottles.@Anonymous, I would never drink anything hot from plastic. Ever.

  6. mother earth aka kar April 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    I use to get very flustered w/ cling wrap, the few times I had a roll in house I never managed to get the knack of having it cling the way it was supposed to – just wasn't cling wrap coordinated. I just stopped buying it. I use wax, butcher paper and glass or a good part of my storage and to the above comment I froze my breast milk in glass baby food jars

  7. Jennifer Taggart, Th April 19, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Katy – Most brand name non commercial cling wrap nowadays is NOT made of PVC, but of low density polyethylene (LDPE). Saran Wrap used to be made of PVdc, but changed to Saran Premium in 2004 when it switched to LDPE. Glad Cling Wrap and Handi-Wrap are also now LDPE. However, commercial plastic wraps and no brand may still be PVC.Not that it makes it necessarily any better – it is still disposable plastic. To avoid using plastic wraps, I'm with you – use re-usable containers, turn a plate on top of a dish, choose butcher paper or similar, etc.

  8. JessTrev April 22, 2009 at 3:55 am #

    Great links/resources + fascinating discussion in the comments. I too think that all plastic leaches (when #5 came into question I decided we needed to use plastic only as a last resort for food).

  9. Florida Girl In Sydn May 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Just found your blog researching wrap n mats– trying to decipher how safe they are plastic-wise (even if you wrap the food in paper, is it safe)?Love your blog! Thanks for all the info!


  1. Throwing up Plastic. It’s the Green Moms Carnival! :: My Plastic-free Life - April 23, 2014

    […] Farber from Non-Toxic Kids provides a few handy plastics guides in her post Plastic Safety Information (a tired parent’s refresher) and cautions us to avoid microwaving in plastic or using plastic cling […]

  2. Non-Toxic Kids Pregnancy and New Mom Series: Avoid Chemicals and Toxins | Non-toxic KidsNon-toxic Kids - May 24, 2014

    […] 1. Limit your exposure to plastics. […]

Leave a Reply

Join the Non-toxic Kids Monthly Newsletter

Non-Toxic Kids is your source for green parenting news and activism, reviews of eco-friendly products, books and music for children, and tips for more natural family living. Our mission is to help your children stay safe, healthy and smart.

  • Stay current on environmental issues affecting kids
  • Get must-have parenting from experienced moms
  • Learn how to choose healthier products
  • Join us in taking action to protect our children
  • Grab your FREE copy of The Chemicals in Us (and how to avoid them)