Plastic

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE)?

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is clear, tough, and shatterproof. It provides a barrier to oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide and is identified with the number 1. PET's ability to contain carbon dioxide (carbonation) makes it ideal for use in carbonated soft drink bottles. Take a look at the bottom of your soft drink bottle and you will most likely find a number 1 there. PET is also used to make bottles for water, juice, sports drinks, beer, mouthwash, catsup, and salad dressing. You can also find it on your food jars for peanut butter, jam, jelly, and pickles as well as in microwavable food trays.

According to the American Chemistry Council, PET has been approved as safe by the FDA and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). In 1994, ILSI stated that "PET polymer has a long history of safe consumer use, which is supported by human experience and numerous toxicity studies." The American Chemistry Council cautions that products made with PET be used only as indicated by the manufacturer. For example, the microwavable trays are only to be used one time and not to store or prepare foods other than those for which they are intended.

Recent studies have shown that reusing bottles made of PET can in fact be dangerous. PET was found to break down over time and leach into the beverage when the bottles were reused. The toxin DEHA also appeared in the water sample from reused water bottles. DEHA has been shown to cause liver problems, possible reproductive difficulties, and is suspected to cause cancer in humans. Therefore, it's best to recycle these bottles without reusing them.

What is high-density polyethylene (HDPE)?

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used to make many types of bottles. HDPE has good barrier properties; it's well suited for packaging products with a short shelf life and has good chemical resistance. It is identified with the number 2. HDPE is used in milk, juice, and water bottles along with household items such as shampoo, conditioner, detergent, cleaners, motor oil, and antifreeze. It can also be found in pipe, tiles, plastic film and sheeting, buckets, crates, and recycling bins.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2015

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