The Truth About Number 7 Plastic: Is It Really Safe?

As an expert in the field of plastic materials, I have been asked numerous times about the safety of number 7 plastic. This type of plastic, also known as food-grade plastic, is commonly used for food packaging and other household items such as shower curtains and plumbing pipes. While it is generally considered safe, there are some concerns about certain components that may be present in specific resins, such as bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate (PC) plastic. One of the main concerns with number 7 plastic is the presence of BPA.

This chemical has been linked to various health issues, including interference with hormonal development. It is commonly found in PC plastic, which is used for items like water bottles, cooking oil bottles, and inflatable mattresses. Additionally, PVC plastic, which is often used for shower curtains and plumbing pipes, contains softening chemicals called phthalates that can also interfere with hormonal development. It is important to note that number 7 plastic should never be used for cooking or heating food.

This includes using it as a food wrapper in the microwave. It is also important to check labels on items like inflatables and baby toys to ensure they do not contain PVC or BPA. Unfortunately, recycling programs rarely accept number 7 plastic, making it difficult to properly dispose of these items. The purpose of the number on plastic products is to identify the type of plastic used, but not all plastics are recyclable or even reusable.

In fact, I often recommend avoiding plastics altogether due to their potential health and environmental risks. However, in today's society where plastic is so prevalent, this can be a difficult task. There are seven standard classifications of plastics, each with their own recycling and reuse information. These include:

  • Polypropylene (PP): commonly used for disposable diapers, buckets, plastic bottle caps, and more.
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): used for items like water bottles, polyester fiber, and plastic lumber when recycled.
  • Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): often found in shrink wrappers, laundry bags, and bottles that can be squeezed.
  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): commonly used for plastic lumber, garden boards, and trash can liners when recycled.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): tough in terms of strength but not safe for cooking or heating.

    Contains phthalates that can interfere with hormonal development.

  • Polyurethane (PUR): used for items like foam mattresses and furniture cushions.
  • Polystyrene (PS): commonly found in disposable food containers and packaging materials.
To reduce your consumption of LDPE plastic, consider switching to reusable shopping bags and containers. You can also opt for cloth bags when buying items like bread from the local bakery. Additionally, using reusable beverage containers and replacing disposable food containers with reusable alternatives can help reduce the amount of PET plastic you use. While HDPE plastic is considered one of the safer options, it is still important to use as little as possible.

This is because only 30-35% of HDPE plastic used in the United States is recycled each year. This means that a large amount of this plastic ends up in landfills or our environment, posing potential risks to our health and the planet. One of the biggest concerns with plastic, in general, is its potential to release toxic chemicals, especially when heated. This is why it is important to never use number 7 plastic for cooking or heating food.

Additionally, plastic pollution is a major issue, with beaches around the world littered with pieces of polystyrene and marine life suffering from ingesting plastic. In conclusion, while number 7 plastic may be considered safe for food packaging, it is important to be aware of potential risks associated with certain components like BPA and phthalates. It is also crucial to properly dispose of these items, as recycling programs rarely accept them. As an expert in this field, I highly recommend reducing your overall consumption of plastic and opting for more environmentally friendly alternatives whenever possible.

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