Our bodies on average need 64 OZ (1900 ml) of water each day depending on your activity level and body type.

There are many reasons to reduce your use of plastic bottles and plastic food containers, but the main one is the potential health risks.  Heavy metals and other contaminants in the food and water you consume may be stored in your body if you have genetic mutations (MTHFR) and cannot properly detoxify. The toxic contaminants in items we consume are most likely due to the containers they are packaged in. In fact, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) discovered that 85% of the population in the U.S. consumes water with about 316 contaminants, most of which are completely unregulated.

Here are a few Safe Healthy Tips for the food you eat and water you drink:

  • Filtering your tap water is so important. Prevention is the most important aspect of good health, so I encourage everyone to drink and shower in filtered water if it is practical and affordable for them because we absorb water through our skin and GI tract.
  • Avoid bottled water, especially in plastic bottles. Use stainless steel or glass bottles instead.
  • Can the cans. Canned foods are likely to be the highest contributor to BPA in our diets, not plastics. Buy fresh or frozen vegetables or food items packaged in glass or cardboard containers.
  • If you use plastic wrap, try to find one that doesn’t contain BPA.
  • Warm and store food in ceramic or glass containers. The label “microwave safe” on a plastic food container only means that the plastic won’t melt. If the product contains BPA, it will leach into your food faster when warm.
  • Use metal or wooden utensils when you cook. Use wooden rather than plastic cutting boards, and clean thoroughly after use.
  • Bring your own, BPA-free containers for leftovers and take-away foods.
  • Recycle. Plastic containers and packaging are clogging our landfills and leaching endocrine disruptors into our groundwater.
  • Flip your plastic bottle or food container over to find out what it is made of.
  • If you do use plastic, stick to numbers 2, 4, and 5(see below). Those are safest.
  • Use Glass or Stainless Steel bottles or containers whenever possible. Especially for hot beverages and foods.

What is in your plastic bottles and food containers? Reference the list below.

Plastic #1- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)- AVOID.  

PET is a polyester. Typical uses are water bottles, juice, mouthwash, and salad dressing bottles, peanut butter jars, detergent and cleaner containers

Toxicity:  PET contains resins made from methane, xylene and ethylene. PET may leach antimony (used as a catalyst and flame retardant). The longer a liquid is left in a PET container the greater the potential for release. As well, warm temperatures inside cars and garages increase the release of toxins into the liquid. Antimony trioxide is considered a possible carcinogen. Evidence is also emerging that phthalate endocrine disruptors also leach from PET. I suggest avoiding PET whenever possible. If you must use it, keep it away from heat and do not reuse it.

Plastic #2- High density polyethylene (HDPE)- RELATIVELY SAFE.

Polyethylenes are the most widely used plastic in the world. The versatile polyethylene polymer has the simplest basic chemical structure of any plastic polymer. HDPE is dense and very crystalline and thus a stronger, thicker form of polyethylene. Typical uses are plastic bags (grocery), opaque milk, water, and juice containers, bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles, garbage bags, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, some medicine bottles.

Toxicity:  Some studies have shown that it can leach the endocrine disrupting chemicals, especially when exposed to sunlight.

Plastic #3- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)- AVOID. 

PVC is the second most widely used plastic resin in the world after polyethylene. PVC use has decreased because of serious health and environmental issues associated with it. PVC’s whole life cycle is toxic, however it is still popular because of its low cost and versatility. Typical use is in toys, clear food take out containers and non-food packaging (e.g., blister wrap, cling wrap), squeeze bottles, shampoo bottles, mouthwash bottles, cooking oil and peanut butter jars, and detergent bottles.

Toxicity:  PVC is widely considered the most toxic and hazardous plastic that is still commonly used. It may contain and/or leach a variety of toxic chemicals including, but not limited to:  bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, dioxins, mercury, and cadmium making it extremely toxic.

Plastic #4- Low density polyethylene (LDPE)- RELATIVELY SAFE.

Polyethylenes are the most widely used plastic in the world. Typical use is mostly in grocery, dry cleaning, bread, frozen food, newspapers, and garbage bags; plastic wraps, coatings for paper milk cartons and hot & cold beverage cups, squeezable bottles (honey, mustard), food storage containers, and container lids.

Toxicity:  It is considered a safer plastic for food and drink use, but some studies have shown that it can leach the endocrine disruptor, nonylphenol, especially when exposed to sunlight.

Plastic #5- Polypropylene (PP)- RELATIVELY SAFE. 

Polypropylene is used for similar applications as polyethylenes, but is generally stiffer and more heat resistant, so is often used for containers filled with hot food. Typical use is for food containers (ketchup, yogurt, cottage cheese, margarine, syrup, take-out), medicine containers, straws, bottle caps, and opaque plastic containers, including baby bottles.

Toxicity:  It is generally considered a safer plastic for food and drink use, although it has been shown to leach plastic additives, especially if heated.

Plastic #6- Polystyrene (PS)- AVOID.

Polystyrene is commonly associated with the trade name Styrofoam food containers and packing peanuts. PS synthesis requires benzene, a known carcinogen. Typical use is in styrofoam food containers, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, take-out food containers, deli food plates, packaging, packing peanuts, and bike helmets.

Toxicity:  PS food containers can leach styrene, which is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen and is considered a brain and nervous system toxicant. Animal studies have shown adverse effects on genes, lungs, liver, and the immune system. Note that styrene is also present in second-hand cigarette smoke and car exhaust.  The leaching of styrene from PS containers into food is increased when the food or liquid is hot and oily.

Plastic #7- Other (O) – all other plasticsAVOID.

This category does not identify one particular plastic resin. It includes the new bioplastics-polycarbonate (PC). Polycarbonate use has decreased drastically in recent years due to the health-related problems associated with bisphenol A (BPA), the primary molecule in PC polymers. Typical use is in baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, three and five gallon water storage containers, metal food can liners, juice and ketchup containers.

Toxicity:  The problem with PC is bisphenol A (BPA) leaches from it. BPA leaching is a significant concern with PC epoxy-lined cans used for foods, especially oil-based and/or acidic foods, which increases leaching.  BPA is often described as a hormone or endocrine disruptor, because it mimics human hormones, in particular the estrogen hormones, which are involved in normal cellular function. BPA has numerous adverse health effects, including increased risk of cancers.

Key references for the above text:

•    Anthony L. Andrady, ed. Plastics and the Environment. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

•    Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie. Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

•    E.S. Stevens. Green Plastics: An Introduction to the New Science of Biodegradeable Plastics. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002.

•    R. C. Thompson, C. J. Moore, F. S. vom Saal and S. H. Swan, eds. “Theme Issue: Plastics, The Environment and Human Health.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Vol. 364, No. 1526, 27 July 2009.

•    Michael Tolinski. Plastics and Sustainability: Towards a Peaceful Coexistence between Bio-based and Fossil Fuel-based Plastics. Salem, MA: Scrivener Publishing, 2012.