1, 2, (skip 3 and 4), 5. You’ll find the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers.
Yes, numbers 1, 2 and 5 plastics are considered the safest while 3 (pvc) and 6 (the type of plastic used in styrofoam) should definitely be avoided. They can leach harmful chemicals, including ones that act like estrogen in your body, which have been linked to breast cancer and low sperm counts.
What about 4 and 7? They’re both mixed bags. Number 4 may or may not contain those estrogen-like chemicals, and manufacturers aren’t required to list the chemicals in their plastics. Number 7 is a catch-call category and also may contain some acceptable goods. In both cases, the problem is that there’s no way for the consumer to know what s/he’s getting.
Even if your kitchen contains acceptable plastics, there are still some guidelines you may want to consider:
1. Heat causes plastic to breakdown and thus leach. Don’t put plastic in the microwave or wash it over and over in the dishwasher.
2. Likewise, don’t leave plastic containers sitting in the heat.
3. If they’re scratched, throw them out. Grooves can trap bacteria.
4. Be wary of plastic wraps. They, too, can leach chemicals into the foods they touch– especially foods with fats, which have an affinity for absorbing many industrial chemicals. Use unbleached parchment paper (secured with rubber bands) or re-useable containers instead.
5. Stock up on glass, ceramic and stainless steel. Have you seen those glass containers for storing and re-heating foods? Are you worried about their plastic lids? See above–that is, keep the lids out of the dishwasher and microwave, and don’t let them actually touch your food.
Come to think of it, do we really need more plastic on this planet? Do we really need all those plastic containers destroying the beauty and health of our new, clean anti-cancer kitchens?