Now more than ever consumers are concerned about plastic bottle safety and the health risks associated with BPA and plastics.
BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical that’s been commonly used to make certain plastics for years.
It’s commonly found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
Polycarbonate plastics and resins are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles.
These epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products such as drink and food cans, bottle tops, and insides of aluminum bottles.
BPA concerns us because it has Estrogenic Activity (EA), meaning it mimics the hormone estrogen in the body.
According to studies, chemicals with EA have been linked to all kinds of health issues like negative effects on the heart, brain and child developmental problems.
These days many “BPA-free” products are available but evidence suggests these may not be safer alternatives.
Researchers tested hundreds of plastic products, many labeled BPA-free, and found that almost all the products tested leached EA chemicals.
This is most likely due to the different additives in the plastic.
It seems the best way to avoid plastics containing BPA, apart from sustainable alternatives, is to be able to identify which plastics may be safer and which you should avoid.
Identifying The Safest Plastic Numbers
What is the safest plastic number when it comes to your bottles and containers?
The first thing you can do is examine the plastic product for any labeling.
To check, flip the product over and look for a number of 1-7 surrounded by a triangle made of 3 arrows, known commonly as the recycling symbol.
Plastic products labeled with numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 generally do not contain BPA.
Products with numbers 3, 6, and especially 7 are most likely to contain BPA.
Items labeled number 7 and/or have the marking “PC,” are polycarbonates.
With these kinds of plastic, BPA is used to provide some “give” to rigid plastics to reduce cracking and breaking.
If a plastic product is rigid and transparent — like a reusable food storage container — odds are good it’s a polycarbonate that may contain BPA.
Softer, flexible, and opaque plastics are usually not polycarbonates and less likely to contain BPA.
Just always be sure to look for labeling.
Discarding Older Unsafe Plastic
BPA has been in use for a long time when making plastic products – since the 1950s.
This suggests that older containers or cups may be made from unsafe plastic and are more likely to contain BPA.
Older products are less likely to have identifying labeling as well.
Another thing to keep in mind is that plastics are more likely to leach chemicals when exposed to various stressors like heat or light.
So older plastic products that have been washed or microwaved many times are more likely to leach chemicals into your food.
Scratches and general wear and tear also cause the release of greater amounts of BPA from unsafe plastic products.
This is another reason to consider discarding older, well-used products that may contain BPA, especially baby bottles and kids cups.
After 2012, the FDA in the U.S. started banning the use of BPA’s in sippy cups but you should still always double-check with newer products by checking their recycling number.
It’s safe to say that not all plastics are created equal when it comes to BPA’s.
After reading this post you should be armed with the knowledge to determine if your plastic is BPA free or not. But are all plastics safe?
It’s a tricky answer but after diving into the details here, we can assume that all plastics should be examined and evaluated for their safety.
Studies show that even “BPA free” plastics can leach these EA chemicals into foods and drinks.
This happens when these plastics are put under stress (i.e. to too much sunlight, heat, scratching, etc).
That being said, I’d recommend referring back to this article while you go through your plastic containers and drinkware.
Anything with BPA (refer to recycling numbers) or anything old/ worn out should be discarded.
Another thing you can do with older plastic containers/ bottles is repurpose them into something else!
We have a great article explaining how to turn old plastic bottles into self-watering planters for indoor plants! View it by clicking here!
The best option I believe is to simply avoid plastic altogether.