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How to Identify Whether Plastic is BPA-free or Not

Akshay Chavan Mar 12, 2019
BPA (bisphenol A) has been found to cause a range of health problems, right from obesity to the dreaded cancer, which has led to a spurt in demand for BPA-free plastic. But what does BPA-free mean? We answer this question and tell you how to identify BPA-free plastic.

Did You Know?

90% of Americans have unsafe levels of BPA in their bodies.
BPA is a building block in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic items like reusable water bottles, plastic sippy cups, food and beverage containers, and sports drink bottles. The reason why plastic manufacturers use BPA is the durability, clarity, stain and odor-resistance that it gave the final product, which obviously increases customer satisfaction.
Plastics with BPA courted controversy in 2008, when research proved that BPA leaches out of containers due to overuse, high temperature, or acidic conditions. Upon entering the body, it disrupts the hormonal system, causing reproductive problems, heart conditions, cancer, asthma, and a range of other issues, including fetal damage in the womb.
As a result of this finding and the negative publicity it caused, plastic manufacturers began to replace their products with BPA-free ones.
BPA-free items are those that are made of plastics like acrylic, styrene acrylonitrile (SAN), melamine, and polypropylene, which do not contain BPA. Since some plastic articles do not have the required labeling, identifying them can be challenging. Keeping this in mind, a variety of methods to identify BPA-free plastic are given here.

How to Identify BPA-free Plastic

By Labels

● Look at the bottom of the item for the recycling code. This is a single-digit number written inside a triangle made of arrows. If the number is 7 or 07, the item may or may not contain BPA. This number indicates the other category of plastics, including polycarbonate.
However, the presence of the number 7 does not confirm that the item contains BPA. Items with this code include 5-gallon reusable water bottles, sippy mugs, some items of Tupperware, clear plastic cutlery.
● Plastic articles which bear the recycling numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 are safe, and do not contain BPA.
● If the recycling code displayed is 3, then the item may contain BPA. This number is an indication for the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) category of plastics, and certain soft items in this category are known to contain BPA as an antioxidant. If the item is rigid, such as a pipe, then it is surely BPA-free.
● Observe the packaging of the item for the words 'BPA-free', though only some plastic articles, such as toys, come with this kind of label.
● If any item is not labeled 'BPA-free', look at the care instructions. If it includes the terms 'Hand-wash' or 'Top-rack Dishwasher-safe', then it is an acrylic article. Labellings like 'Dishwasher-safe' and 'Microwave-safe' are present on SAN articles, but both SAN and acrylic articles are never labeled 'unbreakable'. These can break, unlike polycarbonate.
● Avoid any items that display the abbreviation 'PC'. This indicates that they contain polycarbonate, and are not BPA-free.

● Clear, glass-like items carrying the labeling 'Unbreakable', 'Dishwasher-safe', and sometimes 'Microwave-safe', but without 'BPA-free', are surely made of polycarbonate, and contain BPA.

By Appearance

● Items that are hard with a clear or tinted appearance, and bear resemblance to glass, are probably made of BPA-containing polycarbonate. Any object which has a cloudy appearance and is flexible in nature is certainly BPA-free.
● Any opaque item of a solid color is most-likely BPA-free. These are commonly made from melamine or polypropylene, and marked 'Not for Microwave Use'. Any item with a rubbery feel is also likely to be made of polypropylene.

Other Methods

● Since the current laws do not make it compulsory for manufacturers to display the recycling numbers, a container without one can be used, but only for non-edible items, like paper clips, crayons, etc.
● When buying tableware and food containers, look for recently-made products, especially those made after 2010, as these are most-certainly BPA-free.

● If none of these labellings are visible on the product, or if you are unsure about the type of plastic used, you could try asking the manufacturer.
The best way to avoid plastics with BPA is to avoid all polycarbonate products, especially food and drink containers. Having said that, it is also important to note that recent findings have indicated that BPA-free plastics are not completely safe either.
These products leach out harmful chemicals, which disrupt hormonal activity, just like BPA, which they claim to avoid. So, it is advisable to minimize the use of plastic altogether, and instead opt for glass and stainless steel items whenever possible.