Not sure the sport bottle you drink from or the container you ear your lunch out of is safe? There has been a lot of hype in the media lately about this. I did some digging and found a great article written by Mimi Brodeur of Newhouse News Service that explains what those numbers, and others, really mean to the average consumer.
J.B.Anderson Inspections Inc.
Some hard plastics may pose health risks while some lightweight plastics are recommenede for a single use only and some plastics are problem free. When it comes to plastic bottles, the clue is the number that lies at the bottom of the container inside the triangular recycling symbol
Number 1: Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). A lightweight plastic that is used to make a slew of beverage bottles from soft drinks to water. PET bottles are intended for SINGLE USE because PET is known to break down with use and therefore cannot be properly cleaned. The concern therefore with PET products is not so much that they contain toxins, rather, the buildup of bacteria due to infrequent or insufficient cleaning. Scratches and imperfections in the plastic may host bacteria. The good news is that these plastic bottles are the most viable for recycling.
Number 2: A high-density polyethylene (HDPE) made from petroleum, this plastic is pliable, opaque and versatile. Its many uses include sport bottles, cloudy milk jugs, cereal box liners, trash and shopping bags, shampoo and cleaning supply bottles to name a few. There's low risk of leaching, and it's also curbside recyclable.
Number 3: Along with Number 7, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL plastics. These containers should probably be set aside for nonfood usage. Number 3 has been deemed the "toxic plastic" in many circles due to the softeners (DEHA) that with long-term exposure are carconegic. PVC is sometimes found in food containers, and often it is used in making plastic wrap.
Number 4: Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is the plastic material used for bread bags, frozen-food bags, and squeezable bottles, It transmits no know chemicals into food and it is recyclable.
Number 5: Polypropylene (PP) is not as recyclable as number 1 and 2, but this plastic is another good option when choosing safe, toxin-free food and beverage containers. This omnipresent plastic is used in yogurt containers, syrup bottles, straws and medicine bottles.
Number 6: Polystyrene (PS). Like its name implies this material is used in making Styrofoam. It can also be found in plastic tableware and take out containers. This plastic MAY LEACH STYRENE COMPOUNDS, a possible carcinogen.
Number 7: A clear, hard, shatterproof plastic that is made with polycarbonate compound called bisphenol-A, which is a synthetic hormone. IT MAY POSE SERIOUS HEALTH RISKS. The popular and colorful Nalgene water bottles were a good example of this reusable plastic. The Nalgene company has replaced these water bottles with a bisphenol-A free version. Studies conducted on laboratory animals revealed that even small amounts of bisphenol-A may be linked to breast, uterine and prostate cancers.