Thursday, May 8, 2008

Plastics Guide Part I

It seems like a vast majority of products made for infants and toddlers are made from plastic. How are parents to know which ones are safe and which ones should be avoided? We've been using Nalgenes for years only to recently find out that it may not be the smartest idea. Here's a good list to get you started:

#1 PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)
Generally found in soft drink bottles, medicine containers. Bottom line: because this plastic which is not usually designed for re-use and very commonly recycled it is not ideal for extended use. Overuse will increase risk of leaching, and their design lends itself to harboring of bacterial growth. Recycle after its intended use.

#2 HDPE (high density polyethylene)
Used in toys and bottles for milk, water, detergent, shampoo, juice and thankfully safe for use and re-use.

#3 PPVC or UPVC (polyvinyl chloride –plasticized and un-plasticized)
Found in shampoo & detergent bottles, pipe & tubing, meat wrap, blood bags. Found in some clear food packaging, it is the second most commonly used plastic in the world. Unfortunately it often contains lead, and toxic plasticizers such as phthalates that can migrate into food, water, air and our mouths. Avoid when possible!

#4 LDPE (low density polyethylene)
This soft, flexible plastic is used in garbage bags, wrapping films, grocery bags and is safe for use. Of course, plastic bags pose a suffocation risk for small children, so while the material is chemically safe, the bags should not be left for small children to play with.

#5 PP (polypropylene)
Hard, but flexible. Used in ice-cream & yogurt containers, potato crisp bags, drinking straws, syrup bottles, diapers. Considered safe for use.

#6 PS or UPS (polystyrene and expanded polystyrene)
Rigid, brittle plastic often used in coffee cups, take-out food containers, meat trays, and plastic cutlery. Polystyrene may leach styrene, which is considered a possible human carcinogen, and may disrupt hormones or affect reproduction. Avoid when possible.

#7 Other (including polycarbonate, nylon and acrylic)
Many of these 'other' plastics are suspected of leaching chemicals disrupting hormone functions. Avoid if possible. 95% of all baby bottles are currently made of polycarbonate. Switch to polycarbonate-free baby bottles, like those manufactured from #5 PP, or consider using glass bottles or metal containers when old enough.

As a general tips for reducing toxic plastic exposure- store your food and water in glass or stainless steel if possible. When you do need wrap- choose non-PVC cling wrap (such as Glad and handiWrap).

For more information try, and

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