I always knew that there were different kinds of plastics, but I never knew that the recycling symbol on it indicates what kind it is. So, to avoid health risks from chemicals leaching from plastic, stay away from plastics with the recycling codes 3, 6 and 7.
Jeffrey M. Smith from the daily green explains why:
Plastic No. 3
Found in condiment bottles, teething rings, toys, shower curtains, window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows and piping, No. 3 plastics are at risk of releasing toxic breakdown products like phthalates into food and drinks. Also, the manufacturing of PVC is known to release highly toxic dioxins into the environment.
Plastic No. 6
Better known as polystyrene or Styrofoam, No. 6 plastics are found in disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles and compact disc cases. You should particularly watch out for insulated Styrofoam cups which, when heated, can release potentially toxic breakdown products like styrene into your coffee or tea. Number 6 plastics have also become notorious for being one of the most difficult plastics to recycle.
Plastic No. 7
The so-called “miscellaneous” plastic, No. 7 is a catch-all for various types of plastics, including those found in baby bottles, three-gallon and five-gallon water bottles, ‘bullet-proof’ materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers and nylon. Number 7 plastics are made up of various resins, which fit into no other categories; while some are safe, some are suspect. Some contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that could disrupt the human hormone system, causing various health effects.
In addition to avoiding specific plastics, use reusable cups and cutlery, carry a reusable bag, look for minimally packaged products, and otherwise avoid plastic whenever possible. And, of course, recycle all the plastics you can, and urge your community to expand recycling programs for all plastics.