Plastic numbers to avoid – BPA numbers

BPA is a compound found in plastics. Whether it’s a bottle of water, a lid for coffee cups, a pre-packaged salad container or just that huge jug of water on the water cooler, it seems that we encounter so many plastics products in our everyday drinking and eating. Many of these products contain a chemical known as bisphenol A, or BPA, which can be very harmful to humans.

Recent studies have provided evidence that several types of plastics are evidently unsafe for use; these plastics are used in many everyday household products and often contain high levels of BPA. BPA is considered to be a hormone disrupting chemical that is linked to autism, birth defects, reproductive problems and other health issues. You want to avoid using these plastic products so that you do not ingest bad chemicals along with your food and drink.

What is perhaps the most alarming, is that many products made for babies and small children are made from these harmful plastic types including sippy cups and baby bottles. BPA is also found in the epoxy lining of metal containers including soup cans and drinking bottles.

Most plastic products are marked with a number that corresponds to the type of plastic it is made of. The number, known a as ‘recycling code,’ can be found within the triangular recycling symbol (see above) that recyclable plastics are marked with. The plastics you want to avoid are numbers 3, 6, and 7 – these are the types that can release nasty hormone disruptors and carcinogens into your food and drink.

#3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) has di-2-ehtylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). DEHP is an endocrine disruptor and a likely human carcinogen.

#6 Polystyrene (PS) likely will leach styrene – which is another possible endocrine disruptor and probable human carcinogen- into your drink or food.

#7 Polycarbonate contains bisphenol-A, a the hormone disruptor. This chemical can leach out when it is heated or exposed to acidic solutions. This type of plastic is very common in sports bottles and is used in most baby bottles and 5-gallon water jugs – watch for this one!

Tips for safe use

Below are some tips for some basic practices that you can adopt for safer ‘plastic use.’

– Use Baby Bottles made of tempered glass or polypropylene (#5) or polyethylene (#1) (these do not contain bisphenol-A).

– Keep plastic products away from heat – heat tends to promote the leaching of chemicals. Even the safer types of plastics (see below) may leach chemicals due to heat or prolonged storage.

– Reusable containers or cups with stainless steel or ceramic interiors are a good substitute to your plastic ones.

– Do not reuse plastic drink bottles that were intended for single use.

– Bottled drinks should be used quickly as chemicals from the plastic leach over time…don’t buy plastic bottles of drinks if it has been on store shelves for a long time.

-Taste – if your drink has even a bit of a plastic taste to it, don’t drink it!


#1 polyethylene terephthalate, #2 High Density Polyethylene, #4 Low Density Polyethylene, #5 Polypropylene are deemed the ‘safer’ plastics.


Bisphenol A, othewise known as BPA, is a compound used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is amongst the world’s highest production volume chemicals. Over 8 billion pounds of BPA are manufactured every year. BPA is the offending chmeical that poses such high health risks to consumers and is found in the plastics cited above. A study by the NIH, published in the September 2010 journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, links the ill effects of BPA on test rodents to negative impacts on humans.


To combat corrosion, many metal water bottles – especially those made of aluminum – are lined with epoxy resins that can contain BPA. The February 2009 issue of Specialty News (an outdoors industry trade journal) reported that aluminum bottles with plastic liners made with epoxy are likely to contain BPA.

‘Safe’ metal bottles that are most likely BPA-free are those made of stainless steel, which are more corrosion resistant. Stainless steel bottles tend not to have any epoxy resin liners.


BPA can also be found in canned goods. Similar to the process of combating corrosion in aluminum and metal drinking bottles, manufacturers of canned goods often use epoxy resins to line the inside of cans. Whether it is a can of soup, vegetables, or tomato sauce the epoxy lining of the cans can contain harmful levels of BPA that can leach from the liners into the food. Metal lids of glass containers often also have an anti-corrosive epoxy lining that contains BPA – so just because your food is stored and contained in glass, it doesn’t mean it is free of BPA exposure.