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Chemical companies promised the world that they would change the way people lived through science. Plastics: they’re in everything these days, and avoiding them completely is next to impossible, since over 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year.
Plastic products are likely all over your home – in cosmetics, cushions, tablecloths, flooring, and dozens of other common household items.
So which types are relatively safe and which are the cancer causing plastics to avoid?
This is a common question that health-minded folks are increasingly asking as they dig through their pantries and wonder whether or not they should keep drinking water out of plastic bottles, or consume meal leftovers stored in plastic containers. It’s a battle of convenience versus toxicity, but one that science can help mediate.
The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) created a classification system back in 1988 that differentiates between the seven most commonly used plastics in consumer products. These include the following, which can be identified on the bottoms of plastic containers inside a triangular recycling insignia:
- PETE or PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
- HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
- LDPE (low-density polyethylene)
- PP (polypropylene)
- PS (polystyrene, or styrofoam)
- Other (includes polycarbonate and polylactide)
Each of these plastic types comes with its own set of risks, but some are far safer than others. The first category, PETE or PET, is a common plastic material often used to store beverages. It’s considered a higher-risk plastic intended for single use only because it can potentially leach heavy metals and other chemicals into fluid.
German researchers discovered back in 2009 that PET plastic is much like the infamous bisphenol-A (BPA) chemical in that it can interfere with proper hormone expression and production. The consequences of such exposure, if left unchecked, can increase one’s risk of developing cancer.
The third category, PVC, also poses an elevated risk of cancer and other health issues. Often used in plastic food wrapping, cooking oil containers, and toys for both animals and pets, PVC is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a “major concern” when it comes to cancer risk.
Then there’s category 6, polystyrene, which is recognized as a possible human carcinogen. Also known by the brand name Styrofoam, this plastic material is a staple in to-go cups and takeout containers, and studies have linked it to reproductive health problems.
Research out of Harvard University suggests exposure to polystyrene may cause abnormal pulmonary function, chromosomal damage, and various types of cancer. As of July 1, 2015, New York City banned polystyrene or Styrofoam containers.
Stick With HDPE and LDPE If You Must Use Plastic
Your best bet is to use only #2 (HDP or HDPE) and #4 (LDPE) plastics to minimize your risk of health problems. HDPE plastic is most commonly used in milk cartons (the semi-transparent, whitish kind) and detergent bottles, while LDPE is often used in shrink wrap, plastic bags, and condiment bottles.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also contends that #5 (PP) plastic is a safer option as well, however it must be noted that a survey conducted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that supposedly “microwave-safe” food packaged in #5 PP still contained leached BPA.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2015. It has been updated and republished in January 2020.
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Grace Javier-Pasion says
Thank you for your information
Grace Javier-Pasion says
Thank you for your information
Yoana (@YoanaAt) says
Thank you, Ty!
Hi, Ty, what are the risks for plastics that are used for personal care products, cosmetics, etc.? I see my bottles of soaps and skin care are #1. Or is it more of a risk with drinking bottles?
Hi tsparrowhawk66, when it comes to anything toxic, if you put it on your skin, it will be absorbed into your body and bloodstream in minutes. If your products are coming in those types of containers, might be best to switch to something that either comes in a safer type of plastic, or switch to something that comes in glass containers.
Abhic sam marie says
Thank you for the very useful information about plastics.
Carlene R Gayle says
Thanks for the information but I would like to know about #7
Deborah Dunn says
Me too, interested in info about # 7. I’ve used Nalgene water bottles for some years. It’s a # 7…please let me know whatever anyone knows about the safety of using this bottle. I acutally use it daily, including with hot tea. Thanks very much.
Mitch P Kellam says
Is it safe to drink water from a #7(other) container used for the 5 gallon container I use to have filled weekly at the water dispenser store?
Where can I find the dangers of microwaving in plastics and their guidelines as to what is an absolute DO NOT microwave in plastic. Tia Sharon
None. Heating or freezing is the best way for chemicals to leave from the plastic.
Sherry Masters says
i heard a interview with the world expert on the chemistry of the body his # one was do not use plastics in the microwave that are not meant to be there. if your worried use glass. he said never use hillbilly tupperware sour cream margine containers there made to last to the ex date then they leach. never put those plastics in dishwasher never put children’s toys in dishwasher. never put kids toys in hot water. wash all fruits and veggies never use soap. the natural things that grow are very harmful to our bodies 30 sec. under running water gets rid of them if you use a soap it makes a barrier that the flora and fauna “bugs” get trapped. its called leaching when the chemicals leave. every one thinks of the heating but few know about freezing you are very right on this.
Anita B. says
Do not use microwave ovens!!!! Full stop!
Thank you for that!!! You are a beautiful and intelligent being..,
Everybody thinks that I am crazy for not using the microwave…It’s challenging when you eat out not to eat microwave food or when at Your mothers house…People have no respect for common sense ..I have created many scenes in the restaurant and at my mothers house about microwave cooking…I have walked out at restaurants and we don’t let my mother cook for us anymore..
I use our microwave all the time…for storage, especially of stuff that a counter-surfing yellow lab might want 🙂 Haven’t actually heated or cooked anything in it for years!!!
Kristi Germo says
You really are better off NEVER using a microwave! It radiates food!
Have you ever tasted water from a HDPE or LDPE container? It tastes like plastic. I have never noticed any plastic taste from a PETE bottle. I will check out the references you posted. The safest container is still glass.
Raymond Rowland says
Thanks Ty for all your hard work in helping ones to like myself and my family to learn more about things that most of us are afraid to ask or talk about. You and your team have opened up new doors on Facts and Truth on so! many things. Keep up the good work.
Thanks again. Ray
What do you think about Invisalign for straitening your teeth? They say they make them with BPA free plastic? Please let me know what you think so I don’t make a bad decision…
Marilyn Cox says
About a year ago I began using Invisalign. Within 3 weeks I started with severe itching and a rash on my face, neck, chest, shoulders and abdomen.
I am now using an Invisalign retainer. My rash is better. I take an antihistamine daily. My orthodontist has not been interested and, to the best of my knowledge, has not documented any of this. What is your advice to me?
Thankyou so very much for this most informative article Ty.
I’ve wondered for a long time now, which are the safest plastics to store liquids in the freezer in, now I have a much better idea 🙂
None… Freezing and heating is the best way for chemicals to leach…
Sharon scott says
Just a reminder that Tupperware brand takes pride in producing food grade, non toxic plastic.
Lindamarie Schoedel says
Here in the deep south (and probably elsewhere in the country) all of our water pipes and recently all of our natural gas lines are PVC. What is the long-term effect of using water flowing into your residence for drinking, laundry, washing dishes and cooking with this water? I personally have a water filter for drinking and cooking, but what about the other stuff?
Marsha Chevalier says
This was my concern as well.
Customer Service says
Hi Sharon & Marsha – this is a great question. In a nutshell, the older piping containing BPA simply cannot be good. Many sources say that most health concerns are with PVC pipe manufactured before 1977 but we know it contained BPA long after that.
Here is a list of emerging contaminants in drinking water: https://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/water-quality/drinking-water/nsf-ansi-401-testing-emerging-contaminants. They claim that “contaminants of most concern include pesticides and herbicides followed by prescription drugs and detergents.” But we know that’s not the whole story… we will pass this along to our team to research the topic more and hopefully get an article out on it for you 🙂
What’s a good brand baby bottle? Please Also consider air intake. Thanks
Carole Heaton says
Thank you Ty, I live in the UK and the toxic effects of plastic is slowly being addressed, more as a choice offering by retailers. There is still a long way to go and I find it encouraging that awareness in the classroom is beginning with initiatives creeping into the curriculum. I’ve followed TTAC since January 2016 when I was diagnosed with Cancer, your videos, Web casts and messages have been inspiring and instrumental in finding the strength to believe in myself. My heartfelt thanks to you for all the tireless work you and your wonderful team continue to do. God Bless 💜
Carole Heaton says
Absolutely agree. Back to glass
Natalie Reddekopp says
Thank you Ty! Absolutely love your information and god bless
Customer Success says
You are so welcome! Have a blessed day!
So what do you recommend for water? I have a family of 5 and just a standard income.
Stephanie Hack says
Is PVC piping used to carry water to our faucets or is that any material?
Thank you do much for all your research. Wonderful informative information to take control of out lives.
Blessings to you and family.🙏
Gloria in Arizona
Could you share the references based on which you claim that type 1 can cause cancer?
Some places like mercola.com say that 367 are bad while 124 are relatively safe and 5 is in the middle.
Customer Success says
For more information, please see our sources and references tab that is directly below the article.
Ray Dombrowski says
Thanks Gail !
Ian Sykes says
Jeez is there anything that is safe amongst these so called progress materials. I have avoided drinking water from plastic containers and now only vape my e liquid from glass bottles. Very eye opening material. Thank you Ty for all your work in this very vital area
Why are supplements still being put in plastic bottles? The only company that puts all their products in glass bottles is Global Healing Center and not charging higher prices for doing so.
peggi merkey says
What about Tupperware?
Many municipalities , including where I live, use PVC pipes for their water mains…:-(
Concrete lined Ductile Iron Pipe ( DIP) is the best but it is heavy and costs more to both purchase and install.
My labs associated with Jonathan wrights clinics in Tuckwila Washington And Ganeeva?sp
Show high levels of plastic .
I have tried for years to find out specifics on how the molecules exchange It is been implied by colleges ,students and doctors that it takes heat . . Very vague for something as prevalent as oxygen January I Heard plastic touching foods leeches molecules. Period
The winter is the hardest time All organic micro greens ,herbs ,many forms of mushrooms ,Basil Watercress ,All frozen organic chicken I feed pets.ect I am concerned about how long these items are stored in this plastic before you receive them and transfer them to bamboo paper towels and glass. I don’t know if they become lethal before you receive them in their plastic containment .
Unpackaged greens to get from store to home you still have to put them in plastic or paper and the greens are wet and the paper is full of chemicals . .
Anything lined with non-PBA I understand maybe PBH or PBS which iresearch could be worse .
Please provide echo friendly resources I hear there’s a plant-based materials emerging .
Also if there are any links to research on non-BPA replacements being worse .
Through the two of you since 2016 I have eaten my way to remission . Thank you for the tenacity to withstand the storms of professional Scorn..You gave me the pen to write my own story.
I have many toxic exposure I’m still working on ,
I find it so profound and inspiring you have more recently lesend yours.🙏🌈💕
Then why are supplements from Ancient Nutrition and other functional medicine doctors still being put in plastic bottles? The only company using glass for all their products is Global Healing Center and not more costly as a result!!
Native Remedies uses ALL glass bottles; so does 800-Homeopathy. I’d rather pay the extra price for glass. I don’t buy anything in plastic, including Olive Oil for cooking.
Thank you, question tho, our carpet is made out of PET . . . . so from this, we should probably replace it, correct? It has been down for maybe 15 years.
Loletha Moore says
Thank you for the information. I became very ill and never connected it to the material found in my mattress. I had purchased a well known brand, Tempurpedic and later learned that the product is made from polyurethane foam. Even the pillows have this product. Imagine sleeping and breathing in this every night. I had my mattress for 11 years.
Glad there is information to learn more.
Getting ready to go to a Tupperware party. How can I find out what is in their plastic?
Customer Success says
We would suggest looking at an ingredients list or talking with the manufacturer.
carol keesler says
what happens to all these plastic everyday use cups bowls plates etc that are subjected to high heat in dishwashers
Thanks for the information, Ty!!
Don’t forget about new houses today as most are built using PEX pipe/tubing (HDPE) in place of the old copper for the house’s water system.
Brilliant info, but also makes you feel so helpless as it’s impossible to monitor every single item in one’s home.
Betsy Shivery says
Are Hefty Freezer Bags ok if not what can I use in place of them? I cook for weeks at a time and freeze the food.?
If you have to use plastic freezer bags, I would recommend wrapping the food in non-toxic waxed paper…although some of that is from petroleum-based wax. I use soy-based wax when I do this, but that is not perfect either. Food-grade silicon is still considered safe. I use glass mostly, but sometimes plastic is just so convenient. I haven’t bought bees wax food storage wraps yet, but have my eye on them!!
Dale E Akula says
I have a question for someone well-informed out there. I am in New Zealand and have storage container that fit within category 5 (PP). They’re made here in NZ and state they are BPA free. Would that be accurate or would this be based on the premise behind this comment “The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also contends that #5 (PP) plastic is a safer option as well (…)”
Our labelling requirements are fairly stringent here, but reading the above article has made me question whether the containers “Sistema” are truly BPA free as they have claimed.
wan shazrul says
I was looking for a fast, short but comprehensive explanation over the risk and danger of using plastic bottles for drinking consumption and found that your site provides the best explanation thus far.
I live in the UK and work for a big supermarket at the checkout where they force us now to drink from a cheap plastic bottle. They bought everyone one and even wrote our names on it. They have those sports cap on, which is the dirtiest thing and impossible to clean it.
Customer Support says
Wow, this is shocking, Vanda. Perhaps you could suggest bringing your own glass bottle instead. Hope they allow this!
PVC Pipes, Food packagings, electrical wire insulations,mobile phones, computers etc. are made of plastic.Toxic Gas released by burning or manufacturing of plastic can cause cancer. Plastic products are manufactured by melting plastic by burning it . Manufacturing of plastic products also releases toxic gas into atmosphere which can cause cancer. So, it is a sin to manufacture or burn plastic. Manufacturing or burning plastic is against the wish of the god. Don’t manufacture or burn plastic if we love ourselves and others. Stop manufacturing or using plastic to save our world.
If the food, drinks, products, etc in these plastic containers are never heated or frozen, but they are refrigerated or left at room temperature only, are they still a danger? Or are they considered safe at that point ?
Customer Service says
Hi Jennie, we recommend staying away from anything that contains Bisphenols, as they are known hormone-disruptors. When you eat foods from these containers, you’re at risk of being poisoned by these chemicals. Many researchers are now pointing out that the chemicals accumulate and are the reason for such a high concentration of BPA found in umbilical cords and soft tissues in the body. Our motto is… stay on the safe side!
Great article of health awareness! Now we know the so often seen triangular pictogram on diverse packaging. Some were well known others more to guess. Thx.
F.Y.I. The construction industry often uses PVC for plumbing pipes, both in and out, just because it`s cheaper than metal. This is widely used down south & in mobile homes, usually what is only used in them.
James Greene says
I am owner of 40 yr construction company. Pex water pipe is HDPE that most people use where I live. You can google it to confirm
Andre Dimitrovas says
Thanks for the great info !
Nancy Richards says
What are refrigerator trays? Is this the plastic in the fridge, or the trays the meat comes in?
Drink a lot of fluids all the chemical will come out through urine and sweat , don’t worry God has given us kidney he knows very well that will eat this things. Is up to u to to drink water to remove the toxin.
Silvia Logan says
We are exposed to way too many plastics and we do not even know it. Even when we go grocery shopping, all the bags which we put our fruit and vegetable in are made out of plastic. Even the water, cheeses, meat, and fish are all covered in plastic which is not good.
I am in pursuit to buy a dishwasher. The one I am purchasing is made of plastic coating on the inside. There is even a CA warning about it on the website.
Is Stainless steel better in a dishwasher just for the sake of cancer threats in plastic?
Can you direct me to some credible sites or groups that can give me information on working with plastics.
I believe the manufacturing plant I was transferred to may be affecting my health. I’m not sure where to start with looking into this.
We currently produce any type of bags that food is sold in. Frozen vegetables, snacks, cereal, etc.
Would love documentation, statistical information.
On a personal note, ever since I have been working at this facility I have had problems with thyroid, hormonal induced migraines…
Pieter Newtown says
The link in the Sources and References for “Are you eating cancer?” by Air Force Command has changed.
This is a tough pill to swallow. I use plastic containers and I noticed they have the number 5 in a triangle. The packaging advertises BPA-free yet I’ve been hearing that an alternative chemical is now used, one that is just as bad if not worse. Other than that, I do use plastic wrap over a plate for homemade pizza.
I always wait an hour for the food to cool before packaging since heat causes plastic to leach chemicals. Lately I’ve been worrying about things with acetic acid breaking plastics down.
I always eat food without reheating (microwaves are bad). Nearly all people I meet can’t believe I never get sick (silly germ theory)…
Should I be overly concerned? In addition, are stainless steel containers safe? I like using them for coffee, tea and water but I’m worried about safety. Lately I think fear and insomnia are becoming worse to my health than environmental toxins. Thank you so much for your time.
Tips on cookware (for others): I’d suggest using ceramic/enamel, cast iron and (for spatulas) silicone.