Avoiding Hazards of Plastic Containers

By Teresa Holler, M.S., P.A. Created: September 27, 2008 Last Updated: September 29, 2009
Related articles: Health » Environment & Health
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Plastics can use this label in Canada when they are free from Bisphenol A. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Plastics can use this label in Canada when they are free from Bisphenol A. (David McNew/Getty Images)

While scientists debate the toxicity of chemicals in plastic, it is best to take precautions to protect your family’s health. Below are five simple steps to limit exposure to potential health threats from plastic bottles and other food containers.

Choose Safer Plastics

The first thing to do when considering whether to purchase a food or beverage packaged in plastic is to flip the product over. On the under surface you will find a recycling triangle with a number inside. That number will help you determine how safe the plastic container is. As a rule of thumb, choose 2, 4, or 5 to stay alive.

Carry It With You

Most disposable drink containers are made of #1 plastic, called PETE. This is just an OK plastic. It is not as toxic as polycarbonate #7, which leaches a hormone disruptor known as Bisphenol A (BPA) into its contents. Nor is it as toxic as #3, polyvinyl chloride or #6, polystyrene. However, PETE plastic leaches antimony, which interferes with your body’s ability to detoxify itself, a function that is vital in today’s toxic world.

In order to avoid disposable drink containers, you will have to plan ahead. I carry a glass water bottle whenever possible. Recycled glass juice jars are a perfect solution; just refill them with water that you purify at home. On the occasions where glass is not welcome, choose a stainless steel cup. I always keep one in my car for “emergencies.”

Safer Baby Bottles

Choose a silicone nipple and a glass bottle from manufacturers like Evenflo or BPA-free plastic bottles such as those made by Born Free ( Thanks to consumer demand, these bottles are becoming more affordable at Kids R US and other retailers. Remember never to heat liquids in plastic.

Think Outside the Bottle

Although plastic bottles are in the limelight right now because they may leach toxic chemicals, the same worrisome chemical leaches out of the lining of canned foods. This is why it is important to rinse the contents before eating food out of cans.

The foods with the highest contamination include canned soups, pastas, and infant formula. It is also wise to avoid canned varieties of acidic foods like tomato sauce and fatty foods like tuna fish. Powdered varieties of infant formula are less likely to contain harmful chemicals than the premixed liquids.


Commercial plastic wrap is usually made out of PVC, which leaches toxic chemicals like dioxin into food. Simply remove the wrapping and place it in safer food packaging such as unbleached parchment paper, PVC-free cling wrap (available at natural food stores), or a glass container. You may wish to cut off the outer layer of fatty foods, such as cheese, to further reduce your exposure.

Teresa Holler is a physician assistant, professional wellness speaker, and author of "Holler for Your Health: Be the Key to a Healthy Family." Teresa requests your help in removing toxic products from store shelves. All you have to do is shop smarter and spread the word. Join her at



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Wayne Dean Doyle