Some plastics are safer than others, especially when used as food containers. Plastic containers are typically labelled with a number from 1-7 inside a recycling symbol indicating what type of plastic it is. Depending on the type, plastics may contain several chemicals, including:
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Plastic #1 (PETE):
- PETE is used for: disposable food and beverage containers, bottles, cosmetic containers, household cleaner bottles.
- *Caution* Do not use multiple times for the item will crack. Additionally, do not place items in the microwave to prevent leaching.
- Plastic #2 (HDPE):
- HDFE is used for: detergent and juice bottles, tubs of butter or condiments, milk jugs, toiletries containers, folding chairs & tables.
- Plastic #4 (LDPE):
- LDPE is used for: food wraps, bread bags, squeezable bottles, grocery bags, cartons for juice and milk.
- Plastic #5 (PP):
- PP is used for: kitchenware, microwavable plastics containers & lids, baby bottles, medicinal and condiment bottles, yogurt cups.
Less Safe Plastics
- Plastic #3 Poly vinyl chloride (PVC) contains phthalates.
- PVC is used for: food plastic wrap, toys (i.e.: rubber duckies and beach balls, shower curtains, children’s raincoats, garden hoses, car parts, etc.)
- Effects of Phthalates: used to soften plastic (sometimes also used in cosmetics). Hormone disruptor, and has been shown to damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system — particularly the developing testes in animal studies. 
- Plastic #6 polystyrene (aka Styrofoam): contains styrene & nonylphenol
- Polystyrene is used for: found in cups, plates, and plastic/foam take-out containers, coolers, meat and fish trays; carpet backing
- Effects of Styrene: Chronic exposure to styrene may result in effects on the central nervous system such as headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression, hearing loss, and neuropathy. The National Toxicology Program has listed styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." 
- Effects of Nonylphenol: Exposure via contact includes a burning sensation, cough, labored breathing, sore throat, unconsciousness, skin irritation and burns. Upon ingestion, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and sore throat. 
- Plastic #7 (usually polycarbonate)- may contain Bisphenol A (BPA).
- Polycarbonate is used for: baby bottles and sippy cups, canned food & infant formula containers, some dental resins, plastic food containers, water bottles, thermal paper store receipts
- Effects of Bisphenol A (BPA): endocrine disruptor that acts as an estrogen and hormone disruptor. Has been shown to play a role in female and male infertility, early puberty, breast and prostate cancer and several metabolic disorders. 
The following wallet guides were made to make it simple—put one in your wallet and you can easily check whether your container is safe or not.
Download & Print PDF: Plastics Info Card
- Remember the rhyme: 5, 4, 1 and 2 – all the rest are bad for you!
- See our wallet card to help you remember.
- Do not microwave in a plastic container or leave the saran wrap on the microwave. “Microwave safe” simply means it will not melt; the potential for leaching remains.