Plastic can be found everywhere — in fast food restaurants, in your office, in your home. Anywhere you look, you're bound to find stuff made of plastic or food stored or packed in plastic.
In this "age of plastics", it can be really hard to avoid using this material. Refusing plastic or cutting back on the plastics you use is ultimately the best that you can do. However, on circumstances when it's not likely to do either of these measures, it would pay to at least know the kind of plastics used in various products and use this information when making decisions regarding your plastic usage.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
PET is commonly used to make bottles for water, soda, and other kinds of liquids. It is also considered safe for condiments such as jam, jelly, salad dressing, ketchup, etc. However, PET can leach the toxic metal antimony used during the manufacturing process. And the longer a PET bottle sits on the shelf, the amount of antimony becomes greater.
Also known as Styrofoam, Polystyrene is typically used to make cups, plates, meat trays, and take-out containers. It's known to leach styrene into your food, and styrene can cause damage to the nervous system and lead to cancer.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE is mainly considered a low-hazard plastic that's often used for milk, juice, and water bottles as well as shampoo bottles. Grocery bags and cereal box liners are also usually made of this material.
One study found that HDPE releases estrogenic chemicals, which can potentially disrupt your hormones or alter the structure of human cells.
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
LDPE is another low-hazard plastic. It is typically used in making paper milk cartons, hot and cold beverage cups, and bags for bread, fresh produce, and household garbage. Although LDPE does not contain BPA, it may still pose risks of leaching estrogenic chemicals.
PP plastic is commonly found in containers for yogurt, medications, deli food, and takeout meals. It has high heat tolerance, which means it is unlikely to leach chemicals. However, a study showed that it can still leach two types of chemicals.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
PVC can either be flexible or rigid, and its uses range from shrink wraps and meat wraps to table cloths and plastic toys. It contains toxic chemicals like DEHP, which is a type of phthalate used to soften plastics. Phthalates can be quite dangerous as they can disrupt the endocrine systems of wildlife potentially leading to low sperm counts, testicular cancer, infertility, and genital deformation in a number of species such as deer, otters, whales, polar bears, etc.
Whether you're a regular consumer or a business that aims to make wiser decisions on plastic usage, knowing your options as well as safer alternatives will surely do you good.