Toxic Plastic Containers
Modern plastic products come embossed with a recycling number. This is a number between 1 and 7 which indicates the type of plastic used to manufacture the item. It has generally been reported that numbers 3, 6, and 7 plastics have the potential to release toxic chemicals into any food product contained within them.
When you buy a container of some product it is a simple matter to turn the product upside down and read the number inside the triangle of arrows. Numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 are considered safe, as there has not been any chemical leaching detected from these materials.
Number 3 is polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC releases dioxins and can leach vinyl chloride and plasticizers in use. These chemicals are potent carcinogens. Number 6 is polystyrene, which can leach styrene, which has been shown to be a carcinogen and disrupts hormone levels. Polycarbonate, which is number 7, is supposed to be the worst of these three. It has been shown to leach bisphenol A, or BPA into hot liquids. Most baby bottles are made out of number 7, and this could be a source of concern. While bisphenol A has a low acute toxicity, there is concern about it because it mimics estrogen in the human body. Studies of bisphenol A exposure in animals have shown links to breast and prostate cancer at levels very much below what the government considers safe.
To minimize any harmful effects from plastic containers, do not heat foods or liquids in plastic containers. Look for the more inert plastics when you purchase items. It might be advisable to purchase foods in glass, metal, or paper containers. With most of the food sold today coming in plastic packaging it might be hard to find an alternative. Still, with a bit of safe handling and remembering not to heat foods in these containers, any risk can be minimized.