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Identifying Poisonous Plastics

Written by Print 

This article summarizes the dangers of plastic bottle containers, which we typically assume are safe to eat and drink from. It explains the symbols found on plastic containers, which is useful for identifying the different types of poisons that are leached from them -- from arsenic to petroleum. Plainly labeled on the underside of plastic containers is a number indicating the type of plastic used.

Plastic Identifier: #1 or PET

PET is a plastic that is sometimes distinguished by a #1 stamp. PET is an abbreviation for polyethylene terephthalate. It releases a chemical named antimony trioxide. This chemical toxin has been cited many times as a serious health concern, yet these concerns have been discarded by governments, who have claimed that not enough of this chemical is released to cause problems.

It is well known that antimony trioxide leaches into drinks that are bottled in PET plastics, and the longer the shelf life, the more toxic the drinks become. According Canadian studies, typical ground water contains about two parts per trillion of antimony, but freshly bottled water has averages at around 160 P.P.T., rising to 630 P.P.T. within 6 months. Throughout Europe, the average bottled water contains 350 P.P.T., yet in Germany, PET water that had been bottled for 6 months contained a huge 700 P.P.T. Antimony is very similar to arsenic. In small amounts, antimony poisoning causes headaches, dizziness, and depression. Larger doses produce violent and frequent vomiting, and may lead to death within a few days. Another compound leached by PET plastics is antimony pentafluoride, which reacts with many different compounds. These plastics are produced using hydrogen fluoride and benzene. The chemicals are so toxic during the manufacturing stage that even a small amount in contact with skin can be fatal.

Plastic Identifier: #2 or HDPE

HDPE is identified by a #2 stamp. HDPE stands for high density polyethylene, which is a thermoplastic made from petroleum. This is the safest plastic available, because it is very non-reactive.

Plastic Identifier: #3 or PVC

This plastic is one of the most hazardous. Poisonous chemicals are released throughout the life cycle of PVC, including mercury, dioxins, and phthalates. When people burn PVC products, they release dioxins producing cancers, respiratory, and reproductive problems. The fumes can cripple the immune system for years. The noticeable smell from a new car or shower curtain is the result of PVC fumes.

In July 2005, the European Parliament banned the use of PVC toys, although they are still legal in America. This material is also used in drinking bottles, and therefore, toxins are inside most bottled drinks. Factory workers who work with these materials face long-term health risks, including angiosarcoma of the liver, lung cancer, brain cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cirrhosis. Firefighters also often face similar risks after extinguishing PVC fires, which release hydrogen chloride gas, which forms deadly hydrochloric acid when inhaled.

PVC is not recyclable due to its extremely toxic properties. It is known to leach its poisonous chemicals into drink containers.

Plastic Identifier: #4 or LDPE

LDPE is the abbreviation for Low Density Polyethylene. It is virtually identical to HDPE (reference #2 above).

Plastic Identifier: #5 or Polystyrene

This is one of the safer plastics, but safe is a relative term. Since it is manufactured with benzene and petroleum, we recommend avoiding it. Styrene is itself a carcinogen.

Plastic Identifier: #7 or Other

The "other" literally means unspecified and uncategorized. This plastic could be made from anything, so always avoid these plastics. It is very common for these plastics to contain BPA.

Plastics Containing BPA

Consumer awareness groups have been on the news in recent years decrying the bisphenol-A (BPA) found to be leaching from plastics; especially regarding the plastics used for the drink containers of children and infants. BPA is a chemical which is known to leach out of plastics, disrupting the hormones, as well as causing brain damage, cancer, diabetes and heart problems. The great majority of plastic bottles in use today contain BPA, which some manufacturers claim does not leach into food or drinks. However, a Harvard University study has shown that drinking from BPA-infused bottles increases BPA urine levels by 70%. Imagine the level for an infant who is given formula from one of these containers 6-7 times a day, every day for years, as is normal. This toxin is found in all clear, hard plastic bottles. Cloudy plastics do not contain BPA. Milk jugs do not contain BPA. The F.D.A. has maintained that BPA is safe after having consulted with BPA-industry lobbyists to determine its safety.

We recommend against the use of plastics for the storage of food and drinks. The immune system will otherwise get weakened from coping with added toxicity, in the very least.


Related Articles

Your Metal Drinking Bottle Is Probably A Toxic Plastic Bottle In Disguise

BPA Is In Metal Food Containers Too, Because It Was Intentionally Put There -- To Make Them "Safe"

Sanitary Tampons and Pads: How Their Dioxins Are Leading To The Endometriosis Epidemic

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Comments (12)
  • Carol A.

    Just wondering if Brita filters remove chlorine and other heavy metals or poisons from tap water?

    What is your opinion about distilled water?

    Thank You Much, Carol.

  • C. Thomas Corriher (Managing Editor)

    Read the fine print. Brita filters remove the taste of impurities -- not necessarily the impurities themselves. It is such an incredible scam.

    Distilled water is certainly in the "okay" department, but it is not what we would consider ideal. We would only recommend Berkey water filters, or the use of spring water as ideal sources.

    Distilled water has no minerals, which means that you'll need to get plenty of minerals from vegetables and other sources. We have actually tested some brands of distilled water, and found them to be impure, particularly the "Food Lion" brand, which had organic compounds. You don't want that stuff in the colloidal copper lotion!

    Also, because distilled water is lacking minerals that act as pH buffers, it quickly becomes slightly acidic, due to its rapid combination with carbon dioxide in the air, forming small amounts of carbonic acid. This carbon dioxide seeps into even sealed plastic containers, especially the milk jug type.

    We may have recommended distilled water in our past audio shows, and distilled water is still an okay option, but it is not the ideal.

    Just between us, I've been known to cheat and have a Coke. I'll have to send "the boys" over if you tell anyone. :D

  • Carol A.

    LOL!! Thank You Thomas. Your secret is safe with me!

  • Marie

    Thanks, I did not know that about Brita! What do you guys think of artesian water? I like to drink Fuji Water.

  • Kyle

    Although I don't believe most of what the FDA/Government spews because of the lobbyist issues, I can't help but wonder why you guys don't properly cite sources on any of your articles.


    However, a Harvard University study has shown that drinking from B.P.A. infused bottles increases B.P.A. urine levels by a massive 70%.

    This should be cited and linked for journalistic integrity. I did find the study here ( plastics-leach-polycarbonate-drinking-bottles-humans.html ).

    Just a suggestion. It'll go a long way in strengthening the arguments presented in the articles.

  • Sarah C. Corriher (H.W. Researcher)

    Thanks. This was one of our older articles, which was written before we included our sources alongside the article. I have added your link.

  • Rose Marie

    The only kind of Spring water I know of is bottled in plastic. Is this safe? Also, do you happen to know which Spring water has the highest PH? How do we know that bottled spring water actually comes from a spring? How do we know that minerals have been added or not? Thanks much.

  • Sarah C. Corriher (H.W. Researcher)

    The best option is to purchase a Berkey water filter with the fluoride removal add-ons. If that is not an option, purchase spring water in milk jug containers. It should be identified by a number 2 on the bottom of the jug, and possibly the letters 'HDPE'. It is the least reactive of available plastics.

    Most gallon jugs will list a source of the water. Naturally, avoid sources that list "municipal supply" or "public water supply".

  • Chad

    I thought these will have a plastic/chemical taste if #3,6,& 7 juggs are used.And #1,2,4,& 5 types are good.I always try to avoid plastics.I use lab grade 5 gallon glass carboys & get my distilled water straight from a local professional water distillery.It's cheap & they even test it in front of me if I ask.Like your show & hope to see more soon!

  • Franklin  - Alternative water filter

    Was curious about the Berkey filters and checked them out after reading the comments. They sound good - I've been using a pressure filter for a while now by Aquasana? The only qualm I have with them now (after reading your article) is the fact that the whole filter container system is made of plastic! What would your views on the system be with regards to it being of plastic composition?

  • Brian Bingham  - Safeway orange juice

    I have found Safeway Select Homestyle with pulp 100% orange juice in the 2.63 L HDPE container to have a bad chemical taste. I do not know how to complain about this.

  • Linda Hallead  - RO

    What's your thoughts on a under the sink RO system for drinking water?!

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