What's the Big Deal About BPA?

Whether you’re ordering new plastic containers for your restaurant kitchen or a new water bottle for personal use, you’ve probably seen products that brag, “BPA Free!” But what is BPA, and is it necessary to avoid it? BPA is short for Bisphenol A, a chemical that’s been used to make polycarbonate plastics and resins since the 1950s. The chemical started to get attention in the 1990s when customers began to ask, "Is BPA safe?" Since then, there have been several studies that have attempted to link BPA to health problems, but the FDA has concluded that a low level of BPA exposure is not harmful to humans. Despite this, the U.S. and Canada have banned baby bottles with BPA to prevent potentially negative effects in children, and many companies are voluntarily phasing out adult water bottles with BPA in order to reassure worried consumers.

What Plastics Contain BPA?

Although a certain amount of BPA is safe for daily human ingestion, consumers should be aware of which plastics contain BPA and other potentially harmful chemicals. Plastic is categorized by resin codes that tell consumers how to recycle the different types of plastic. The recycling number also corresponds to chemicals that the plastic is actually made with. It can be difficult to keep these numbers straight, so this list will help you sort out which plastics are safe for use in a variety of different situations.

Polyethylene Terephthalate

PET Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: No
  • Used For: Disposable Water Bottles, Clothing (Polyester)
  • Recycled Into: Pillow Filling, Sheet Plastic, Food Containers

High-Density Polyethylene

HDPE Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: No
  • Used For: Milk Containers, Detergent Bottles, Water Jugs
  • Recycled Into: Hair Care Bottles, Motor Oil Bottles, Outdoor Fencing, Recycling Bins

Polyvinyl Chloride

PVC Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: No, but when heated this plastic can release other chemicals into food
  • Used For: PVC Piping, Outdoor Fencing, Medical Tubing, Shrink Wrap
  • Recycled Into: Not Commonly Recycled

Low-Density Polyethylene

LDPE Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: No
  • Used For: Bread Bags, Toys, Squeeze Bottles, Adhesives
  • Recycled Into: Tile, Paneling, Trash Cans


PP Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: No
  • Used For: Yogurt Containers, Take-out Containers, Bottle Caps, Condiment Bottles
  • Recycled Into: Brooms, Car Battery Cases, Storage Bins, Trays


PS Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: No, but when heated this plastic can release other chemicals into food
  • Used For: All Foam Products (Cups, Plates, Bowls, and Packing Peanuts), Coat Hangers, Toys
  • Recycled Into: Not Commonly Recycled


Other Recycling Symbol
  • Contains BPA: Plastic 7 may contain BPA. If it is not labeled "BPA Free" it probably contains BPA
  • Used For: Large Reusable Water Bottles, Compostable Disposables, Other
  • Recycled Into: Not Commonly Recycled

Posted in: Food Safety|By Sabrina Bomberger
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