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What Do The Plastic Numbers On Your Containers Actually Mean?

Hopefully we all try to do our part by recycling what is recyclable in favor of the Earth's health. But what do those little numbers in the inside the recyclable triangle actually mean for you? Are there health concerns with them?

Let's look at the numbers:


#1. These plastics are usually the ones found in plastic water bottles, the one's you've probably heard that you shouldn't reuse. This is because it easily absorbs and releases bacteria. This is an okay plastic. If we were talking stoplight colors for plastics, this would be a yellow. 


#2. These plastics are used to make the bottles your cleaning products come in or milk jugs. These plastics are not known to leech chemicals and therefore are a green. 


#3. These plastics are usually used to make cooking oil bottles or mouthwash bottles. #3 plastics contain pthalates which will leech into the product the plastic is carrying. This is a red plastic in terms of the stoplight. 


Here are some known correlations with high pthalate exposure:

Endocrine (hormone) disruptors: 

  • Most sensitive is the immature male reproductive tract.

  • Children: Lower IQ, problems with attention

  • Women: Infertility, PCOS, endometriosis

#4. These plastics are typically used to make shopping bags. While these aren't necessarily good shopping bags for the environment, they don't leech any platicizers into your food. These are a green. 


#5. These plastics are usually used to make medicine bottles and drinking straws. These are not known to leech chemicals into food. These plastics are a yellow. 


#6. These plastics are usually used to make plastic cups and plates. These are known to leech the solvent styrene into foods. These plastics are considered red. 

Here are some known correlations with high styrene exposure:

  • Headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability 

  • Changes in color vision

  • Slow reaction time 

#7. These plastics are usually used to make hard plastic containers such as reusable plastic water bottles, food containers, and 3-5 gallon water jugs. These plastics are known to leech the plasticizer bisphenol A (BPA). You've likely heard of this compound before, a lot of reusable water bottles now sport the "BPA Free" sticker. **Side note: BPA free doesn't mean that it is free of other forms of bisphenol which are equally as bad. Therefore something that says "Bisphenol free" would be a better option.** This number is red on the stoplight.


Here are some known correlations with BPA exposure:

  • BPA has estrogenic properties, aka it acts as estrogen in the body, and therefore stimulates breast cancer cell growth.

  • Can disrupt thyroid hormone function.

  • Can alter lipids and liver enzymes leading to heart attacks, angina, and coronary artery disease. 

I hope this shed some light on the vague little numbers inside the recycle triangles and was helpful in terms of which ones are better for your health!


Disclaimer: I am not a physician or a health care practitioner. This site is not meant to provide medical or health advice of any kind. Do not misconstrue any information that you read here as medical recommendation, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided here on this site is intended to serve as a communication of my experiences and to share articles and public material pertaining to health that I come across. It should in no way be interpreted as medical advice of any kind.

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