Plastics, Plastics….What’s a Girl to Do?

March 9, 2012

The other day I was loading my dishwasher and my sister in law was in town visiting helping me out in the kitchen. Without thinking, I threw my plastic food containter into the top shelf of my dishwasher. My sister in law, asked me if I always did that. “Sure,why?” I replied. She then began to share with me her plethora of knowledge regarding the use and abuse of plastic. I knew from receiving various emails not to heat food in plastic in the microwave, but I never made the link about cleaning and heating my plastic containers in the dishwasher.

After listening to the potential dangers regarding plastics in general, I threw out all of my plastic containers that had been heated and switched over to glass containers. I kept some that I’ll use to pack school snacks but I’m washing those by hand and not putting them in the dishwasher anymore.

Plastics are widely available, affordable and convenient but scientists are finding that there may be a cost of our health and our environment, including the release of toxic chemicals.

So what can we do about this plastic invasion?

We can reduce our use and look for other alternatives such as wood, glass, stainless steel, or bamboo. We also can educate ourselves about the many different kinds of plastics that there are. Most containers have a number inside of a chasing arrow symbol often found on the bottom. Here’s a quick list to help you sort things out:

1 PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
2 HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups
3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
4 LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers
5 PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware
6 PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols
7 Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.
This list is taken from:

So, now what?!? What do we do with all of this information?!? Without raising our level of paranoia, just try to be aware of how we use plastics and try to make better choice. If possible, find alternatives to plastic. If not, avoid plastics labeled 3, 6 and 7 and use safer plastics labeled 1, 2, 4, and 5.

And remember, whatever you do…don’t put your plastics in the dishwasher.

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