Plastic has become something we can’t live without. From the containers we drink water out of to the toys our kids play with plastic is everywhere. Science is uncovering more about this material and how it affects our lives. Learning about plastic helps you make better choices when buying and using products. Plastic is important in the modern world but it’s also important to know how it affects your family and the Earth.

Plastic comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s a huge range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids that are used to make thousands of different products. Most plastic are created from petroleum and natural gas. What makes plastic so appealing to manufacturers is its versatility, and low cost. Look around your home and you’ll find hundreds of products made of or with plastic. It’s not a new material, plastic has been around since 1862, it’s hard to imagine life without it. What can make plastic so dangerous is what’s added to it. For example plasticizers such as adipates and phalates are often added to plastic to make them moldable for food packaging, toys, tubing and even shower curtains. These chemicals can transfer to things like food. The chemicals used to manufacture plastic may be toxic and can stay in products as well. In the past few years the European Union and the FDA have been doing more research into how plastics interact with humans.

Plastic is also detrimental to the Earth. They degrade very slowly and can take hundreds of years to decompose. Burning plastic releases fumes that are harmful to the air. The process of creating plastic also releases chemical pollutants. Recycling plastic is a difficult and time-consuming process as well. The accumulation of plastic waste has become a serious issue for the world at large. Scientists have started to look for alternative materials as petroleum prices have risen.

So what can you do about your and the Earth’s safety when it comes to plastics? New rules and regulations have come out to protect consumers. If you look at plastic objects you’ll notice a number with a recycling sign. These numbers tell you if an object is recyclable or not. These also tell you which plastics are safer than others. There are seven numbers you can find on plastic containers, which symbolize the seven different types of plastic available. Plastic numbers 2, 4 and 5 are considered the safest. Plastic number 1 is also considered safe but shouldn’t be reused. Soda and water bottles are made of plastic #1. A good way to help the environment and your family is to buy reusable water bottles and stop using plastic ones. Another tip is to try to use glass as much as possible when cooking, especially when using a microwave. Just because a plastic container says it can be using in cooking doesn’t mean it’s safe. To learn more type  “plastic safety” into Google. You’ll find many resources to help you navigate the world of plastics.