Reef Safe Plastics & Leaching (myths&facts)

Discussion in 'General Reef Topics' started by infamous, Jan 25, 2009.

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  1. infamous

    infamous Corkscrew Tentacle Anemone

    Sep 4, 2008
    Reef Safe Plastics & Leaching (Myths & Facts)

    This topic came up when someone in my reefclub posted a thread about plastic autotopoff container and which one should be used. Everyone in the reefclub jumped on it suggesting #1 or #2 plastics.

    I decided to do some more research on the topic because i noticed that no one ever gave any other reason why people should use those platics other than that they were food grade plastics and are not recycled . So i did some searching around and realized that people had no idea why they were recommending those types of platics.

    Myth:The higher number on the plastic means its better quality or is more pure.

    Fact: The number on the plastic has nothing to do with the quality or purity. It tells you the chemical makeup of the polymers used in the plastic and the optimal use of that plastic. The number also tells us what that plastic can be recycled into.

    Myth:#1 and #2 are food grade plastics and are better.

    Fact:Many plastics are food grade plastics. #1, #2, #5, #6 and #7. For example baby bottles are typically made from #7 plastic.

    Myth:The recycle logo means that the plastic has some recycled material added to it.

    Fact:The logo means that the item can be recycled and number in the middle also tells us what kinds of things that plastic can be recycled to.
    If the item has recycled material, it will say so in print.

    Myth: Plastics can leach just like any other material.

    Fact:Most plastics don't leach toxic substances. Once the plastic is hard, it only mixes with substance of similar macromolecular structure. Even if you heat it, it still won't mix with water or saltwater. However, some plastics (Namely #1 and #7 plastics) have been known to leach traces of toxic substances when exposed to microwaves or superhot liquids(water,milk etc).

    You will typically find these logos on plastic containers.

    What do the numbers mean and what are those letters at the bottom?

    Number 1 Plastics -- PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

    * Found In: Soft drinks, water and beer bottles; mouthwash bottles; peanut butter containers; salad dressing and vegetable oil containers; ovenable food trays.
    * Recycling: Pick up through most curbside recycling programs.
    * Recycled Into: Polar fleece, fiber, tote bags, furniture, carpet, paneling, straps, (occasionally) new containers

    It poses low risk of leaching breakdown products. Recycling rates remain relatively low (around 20 percent), though the material is in high demand by remanufacturers.

    Number 2 Plastics -- HDPE (high density polyethylene)

    * Found In: Milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners
    * Recycling: Pick up through most curbside recycling programs, although some only allow those containers with necks.
    * Recycled Into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, doghouses, picnic tables, fencing

    HDPE carries low risk of leaching and is readily recyclable into many goods.

    Number 3 Plastics -- V (Vinyl) or PVC

    * Found In: Window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging, wire jacketing, medical equipment, siding, windows, piping
    * Recycling: Rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.
    * Recycled Into: Decks, paneling, mudflaps, roadway gutters, flooring, cables, speed bumps, mats

    PVC contains chlorine, so its manufacture can release highly dangerous dioxins. If you must cook with PVC, don't let the plastic touch food. Never burn PVC, because it releases toxins.

    Number 4 Plastics -- LDPE (low density polyethylene)

    * Found In: Squeezable bottles; bread, frozen food, dry cleaning and shopping bags; tote bags; clothing; furniture; carpet
    * Recycling: LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs, but some communities will accept it. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.
    * Recycled Into: Trash can liners and cans, compost bins, shipping envelopes, paneling, lumber, landscaping ties, floor tile

    Historically, LDPE has not been accepted through most American curbside recycling programs, but more and more communities are starting to accept it.

    Number 5 Plastics -- PP (polypropylene)

    * Found In: Some yogurt containers, syrup bottles, ketchup bottles, caps, straws, medicine bottles
    * Recycling: Number 5 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.
    * Recycled Into: Signal lights, battery cables, brooms, brushes, auto battery cases, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets, trays

    Polypropylene has a high melting point, and so is often chosen for containers that must accept hot liquid. It is gradually becoming more accepted by recyclers.

    Number 6 Plastics -- PS (polystyrene)

    * Found In: Disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers, aspirin bottles, compact disc cases
    * Recycling: Number 6 plastics can be recycled through some curbside programs.
    * Recycled Into: Insulation, light switch plates, egg cartons, vents, rulers, foam packing, carry-out containers

    Polystyrene can be made into rigid or foam products -- in the latter case it is popularly known as the trademark Styrofoam. Evidence suggests polystyrene can leach potential toxins into foods. The material was long on environmentalists' hit lists for dispersing widely across the landscape, and for being notoriously difficult to recycle.

    Number 7 Plastics -- Miscellaneous

    * Found In: Three- and five-gallon water bottles, 'bullet-proof' materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, nylon
    * Recycling: Number 7 plastics have traditionally not been recycled, though some curbside programs now take them.
    * Recycled Into: Plastic lumber, custom-made products

    So which plastics leach and which are safe to use in reef tanks?
    I have found some aricles that could shed more light on this subject.

    I will start posting interesting articles on this thread as i find them.

    First interesting article i found on Trusted.MD

    Which plastic water bottles don't leach chemicals?

    To be certain that you are choosing a bottle that does not leach, check the recycling symbol on your bottle. If it is a #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), or a #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or a #5 PP (polypropylene), your bottle is fine. The type of plastic bottle in which water is usually sold is usually a #1, and is only recommended for one time use. Do not refill it. Better to use a reusable water bottle, and fill it with your own filtered water from home and keep these single-use bottles out of the landfill.

    Unfortunately, those fabulous colourful hard plastic lexan bottles made with polycarbonate plastics and identified by the #7 recycling symbol, may leach BPA. Bisphenol A is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies. Synthetic xenoestrogens are linked to breast cancer and uterine cancer in women, decreased testosterone levels in men, and are particularly devastating to babies and young children. BPA has even been linked to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

    most plastic baby bottles and drinking cups are made with plastics containing Bisphenol A. In 2006 Europe banned all products made for children under age 3 containing BPA, and as of Dec. 2006 the city of San Franscisco followed suit. In March 2007 a billion-dollar class action suit was commenced against Gerber, Playtex, Evenflo, Avent, and Dr. Brown's in Los Angeles superior court for harm done to babies caused by drinking out of baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA. So, to be certain that your baby is not exposed, use glass bottles.

    Article written by Vreni Gurd
    Bachelor of Physical and Health Education, High Honours
    Holistic Lifestyle Consultant, Level 2, Chek Insitute
    Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiologist Level 3, Chek Institute
    Certified Exercise Physiologist, Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)



    Second article published in Scientific American.
    Written by David Biello
    Published - February 19, 2008

    Food Containers Leach a Potentially Harmful Chemical

    Bisphenol A (BPA) is a ubiquitous compound in plastics. First synthesized in 1891, the chemical has become a key building block of plastics from polycarbonate to polyester; in the U.S. alone more than 2.3 billion pounds (1.04 million metric tons) of the stuff is manufactured annually.

    BPA is routinely used to line cans to prevent corrosion and food contamination; it also makes plastic cups and baby and other bottles transparent and shatterproof. When the polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins made from the chemical are exposed to hot liquids, BPA leaches out 55 times faster than it does under normal conditions, according to a new study by Scott Belcher, an endocrine biologist at the University of Cincinnati. "When we added boiling water [to bottles made from polycarbonate] and allowed it to cool, the rate [of leakage] was greatly increased," he says, to a level as high as 32 nanograms per hour.

    "It is the unborn baby and children that investigators are most worried about," Newbold says, noting that BPA was linked to increased breast and prostate cancer occurrences, altered menstrual cycles and diabetes in lab mice that were still developing.

    Fred vom Saal, a reproductive biologist at the University of Missouri–Columbia, warns that babies likely face the "highest exposure" in human populations, because both baby bottles and infant formula cans likely leach BPA. "In animal studies, the levels that cause harm happen at 10 times below what is common in the U.S." says vom Saal, who also headed the NIH panel that concluded the chemical may pose risks to humans.

    "Based on the studies reviewed by FDA, adverse effects occur in animals only at levels of BPA that are far higher orders of magnitude than those to which infants or adults are exposed," says FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek. "Therefore, FDA sees no reason to ban or otherwise restrict the uses now authorized at this time."

    A new E.U. law (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances, or REACH), which took effect last year, requires that chemicals, such as BPA, be proved safe. Currently, though, it continues to be used in Europe; the EFSA last year found no reason for alarm based on rodent studies. European scientists cited multigenerational rat studies as reassuring and noted that mouse studies may be flawed because the tiny rodent is more susceptible to estrogens.

    For now, U.S. scientists with concerns about BPA recommend that anyone sharing those worries avoid using products made from it: Polycarbonate plastic is clear or colored and typically marked with a number 7 on the bottom, and canned foods such as soups can be purchased in cardboard cartons instead.


    Third article i found was about
    Number 1 Plastics -- PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate)

    Very detailed article written by many scientists - 31 July 2007

    Antimony leaching from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic

    Please click on the link for the full pdf article

    Great article about Antimony leaching from #1 Plastics and the effect of pH, temperature, and interactions with calcium and magnesium

    Antimony is a regulated contaminant that poses both acute and chronic health effects in drinking water......

    Written by
    Paul Westerhoffa
    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Arizona State University

    Panjai Prapaipong
    School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

    Everett Shock
    Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Arizona State University

    Alice Hillaireaud
    Traitement des Eaux et des Nuisances, University of Poitiers, Poitiers, France


    Fourh Atricle

    More Evidence That BPA Found In Clear Plastics Impairs Brain Function
    Neurology / Neuroscience

    Yale School of Medicine researchers reported that the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), a building block for polycarbonate plastics found in common household items, causes the loss of connections between brain cells. This synaptic loss may cause memory/learning impairments and depression, according to study results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

    Unlike previous studies that looked at the effect of BPA on rodents, the team examined the effects in a primate model. They also used lower levels of the chemical than in past studies. "Our goal was to more closely mimic the slow and continuous conditions under which humans would normally be exposed to BPA," said study author Csaba Leranth, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences and in Neurobiology at Yale. "As a result, this study is more indicative than past research of how BPA may actually affect humans."

    Over a 28-day period, Leranth and his team gave each primate 50 micrograms/kg of BPA per day, adjusted for body weight, the amount considered safe for human consumption by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The team also administered estradiol, the major form of hormonal estrogen that modulates nerve cell connections in the brain. Best known as one of the principal hormone products of the ovary, estrogen has also been shown in past studies to be synthesized in the brain, where it aids the development and function of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

    The team then used an electron microscope to count nerve cell connections in the brain. They found that BPA inhibits creation of the synaptic connections in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain involved with regulation of mood and formation of memory.

    "Our primate model indicates that BPA could negatively affect brain function in humans," said study co-author Tibor Hajszan, M.D., associate research scientist in Yale Ob/Gyn. "Based on these new findings, we think the EPA may wish to consider lowering its 'safe daily limit' for human BPA consumption."

    Hajszan said that although daily exposure of an average person to BPA usually does not reach the level that was applied in this study, human exposure to BPA is not limited to a single month, but rather is continuous over a lifetime. "The negative effect of BPA may also be amplified when estradiol levels are naturally lower than in healthy adults. That is why exposure to BPA may particularly be risky in the case of babies and the elderly."

    Other authors on the study included Klara Szigeti-Buck, Jeremy Bober and Neil J. MacLusky.

    The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and by a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression Young Investigator Award

    My Conclusion
    After reading many articles and doing research i came to the conclusion that the presence of BPA in trace amouts is ok for adults. If you want to be on the safe side, do not reuse #1 plastics and do not expose #7 plastics to high heat. I also want to say that this is just my personal opinion.

    Hope you gained some knowledge on this topic. If there is anything in here that is incorrect or needs to be adressed. Please feel free to do so.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
    2 people like this.
  2. Click Here!

  3. 10acrewoods

    10acrewoods Fire Goby

    Dec 2, 2008
    Carbondale Il
    great post good info
  4. Damsels R Cool

    Damsels R Cool Millepora

    Sep 4, 2008
    good post it anwered a question i had about my #5 QT tank
  5. Bogie

    Bogie Snowflake Eel

    Feb 7, 2008
    So it looks like those $10 Nalgene water bottles with the #7 on the bottom are really not good, because they can leach out BPA? That's not what it says on their website...
  6. infamous

    infamous Corkscrew Tentacle Anemone

    Sep 4, 2008
    LMAO ..why would they say that on their website about their own product ::)
  7. Bogie

    Bogie Snowflake Eel

    Feb 7, 2008
    Their site says that their products are safe. Maybe some #7s are safe as long as there is no BPA in them, and some aren't?
  8. Click Here!

  9. Av8Bluewater

    Av8Bluewater Giant Squid

    Aug 27, 2008
    I never knew the first one is a myth. If you've ever lived in a place that recycles you know what they mean.
  10. infamous

    infamous Corkscrew Tentacle Anemone

    Sep 4, 2008

    This article below will answer your questions. BPA is a debated topic. Ofcource the companies that are in the business of making plastics are not going to admit that its harmful. Why would they? Especially if the adverse effects are not big enought to be noticed by the FDA. This is very mich like a pharmaceutical company that will tell you that a drug is safe and then 10 years later the FDA bans the drug because people are getting heart attacks from them. These studies on BPA and plastics is not that old. I guess time will tell. But my understand accoring to the FDA is that the presence of BPA is ok as long as you don't use them with hot liquids and/or expose them to microwaves. THis causes BPA to discharge at a much faster rate in #7 plastics. The small amount of BPA is ok. Just not for babies and older people because their brains are very sensitive to it.

    This was found on Nalgene site so its biased as i assumed.

    As a responsible manufacturer of polycarbonate consumer products, Nalge Nunc International has monitored scientific research concerning the safety of our products including Bisphenol-A for many years.

    Based on the findings of the Food and Drug Administration, The Environmental Protection Agency, The American Plastics Council and other reliable sources from around the world, we continue to firmly believe in the safety of our products.

    Nalge Nunc International also believes in providing its customers with the most factual information currently available on this subject. You can view the most up to date information here
    The following reference sources are provided for customers wishing to perform additional research.

    Frequently Asked Questions:
    Downloadable PDF's:
    Additional Websites:

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Nalgene is committed to the well being of everyone that uses our products. Therefore, we've compiled the following information to better inform our consumers on all of our products. We hope you find it useful and reassuring.

    Question: Why is Nalgene transitioning from polycarbonate to other materials?
    Answer: Nalgene's principle goal is to create reusable containers for a wide range of consumers; from hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to commuters and kids on-the-go. We are always looking for new materials and products that help us meet that goal. Our decision to phase out production of the Outdoor line of polycarbonate containers is in response to consumer demand for products that do not include Bisphenol-A (BPA).

    We are confident that the bottles which contain BPA are safe for their intended use. However, because of consumer requests for alternative materials, we have decided to transition our polycarbonate product line to Eastman Tritan™ copolyester. This product joins our family of bottles and containers made of various non-BPA materials such as HDPE, PP, LDPE and PET.

    Through our Nalgene Choice program, we already offer the broadest product line in the industry, with a range of BPA free bottle and container choices to meet the needs of every consumer. Our website (<A href="" target=_blank> offers consumers a clear guide to research the product and material that fits their needs.

    Based on the findings of the Food and Drug Administration, The Environmental Protection Agency, The European Food Safety Authority, The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, The Japan Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare, The American Plastics Council and other reliable sources from around the world, we continue to firmly believe in the safety of our products containing BPA. However, we intend to carefully monitor the results of the National Toxicology Report and the Canadian government's inquiry into this issue and any other relevant scientific information.

    Question: Is this a product recall?
    Answer: No. We proactively made this decision to transition from polycarbonate to Tritan and our family of bottles and containers made of various non-BPA materials such as HDPE, PP, LDPE and PET to respond to consumer requests for alternative materials. It is important to us that we respond to consumer concerns in a timely and effective manner by offering a product line that is BPA-free.

    Question: Are other Nalgene consumer products manufactured with BPA?
    Answer: No. We manufacture consumer bottles and containers in HDPE, PP, LDPE, PET, and most recently, Eastman Tritan copolyester and Stainless Steel (by Guyot Design). Each of these materials is manufactured without BPA.
    For more information on each of these materials, we have created Nalgene Choice (, an online information resource designed to provide consumers with accurate and detailed information about the features and benefits of Nalgene's full product line and materials.

    Question: Are polycarbonate bottles safe?
    Answer: Yes. Agencies and researchers worldwide have studied the safety of BPA and polycarbonate for approximately 50 years; including The Environmental Protection Agency and The Food and Drug Administration in the USA, The European Commission Scientific Committee on Food, The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Findings of studies from these agencies indicate that food and beverage containers manufactured from polycarbonate do not pose a health risk to humans. Polycarbonate is used in a wide variety of consumer products including baby bottles, water bottles, dental sealants and the lining of most metal food and beverage containers and has been for over 45 years.

    Furthermore, several scientific panels including the European Union's Scientific Committee on Food, the National Toxicology Program and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis have concluded that the weight of scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis that low doses of BPA adversely affects human health. None of the large studies conducted have substantiated the claims made by those performing some of the smaller studies frequently cited. Health Canada and the United States' National Toxicology Program (NTP) are completing their investigations of the scientific data compiled to date. Both identify "some concern" (NTP, 2008) for "potential health risks" (Health Canada, 2008) relative to neural and behavioral effects in early stages of development, based upon several of the animal studies reported, but have concluded the data are too uncertain at this time to draw any conclusions as to possible effects in humans at early developmental stages. Each will release separate final reports later this year. We intend to carefully monitor the results of any other relevant scientific information.

    Question: Where can I find reliable information on polycarbonate and BPA?
    Answer: Consumers can visit the following web sites for more information:
    Question: Which government and regulatory agencies have reviewed polycarbonate?
    Answer: Many government and regulatory agencies, including those listed below, have conducted comprehensive testing and review of polycarbonate and determined that it poses no known health risk to humans.
    • The Environmental Protection Agency (USA)
    • The Food and Drug Administration (USA)
    • The European Commission Scientific Committee on Food
    • The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
    • Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare

    Question: Why does Nalgene use polycarbonate?
    Answer: Many consumers prefer polycarbonate because of its unmatched ability to offer extraordinary durability, glass like clarity and resistance to stains and odors. And polycarbonate has been widely used by many companies throughout the food and beverage industry, as well as other consumer products, for over forty-five years.

    Question: Where are Nalgene bottles manufactured?
    Answer: Unlike our major competitors, all Nalgene products are "Made in the USA". As a US manufacturer, the business meets all applicable manufacturing standards, including ISO 13485, to ensure the quality and safety of its products.

    Question: What does the #7 represent?
    Answer: Most plastic containers are marked (usually on the bottom) with a number within a triangle with arrows ñ commonly known as a recycling symbol. These numbers, known as the resin identification coding system, were created in 1988 to facilitate recycling programs across the country. These recycling numbers can range from #1 to #7, depending on the type of plastic. The #7 recycling label is a catchall indicator for plastics made with a resin other than those in the #1 to #6 designations, or made of more than one resin. The #7 category not only includes polycarbonate, but also includes compostable plastics made of organic material and other types of plastic that do not necessarily contain BPA (Bisphenol-A). For example, our new Everyday™ line manufactured with Eastman's Tritan™ copolyester is a #7, but does not include BPA.

    For more information regarding types of plastics and recycling codes, please feel free to visit the following link:
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2009
  11. lillys Grandad

    lillys Grandad Horrid Stonefish

    Feb 25, 2008
    Rio Linda, California
    Great facts and inferences.
    The 5 gallon Jugs I use for w/c, I purchased from an Aquarium supply house locally...they are #2 HDPE, So it looks like they were an honest seller..Because they told me they were the safest way to go, if I was to store water, but I am merely transferring it within no worries at all it seems. 16.00 each.
  12. infamous

    infamous Corkscrew Tentacle Anemone

    Sep 4, 2008
    Keep in mind that studies were not done on Marine life. These were on humans. But i assume that it will effect marine animals even more than humans since they are more sensitivie to toxins.