Plastics make it possible, right? But could they be making you and your family sick? The potential dangers of common household plastics have been making headlines a lot in recent years.
But do all the warnings about toxins in our containers and bottles really hold any water? Baylor University Environmental Science professor Dr. Erica Bruce, says yes.
"You could have an affect on one of your organ systems that you're not aware of right away," says Bruce.
When it comes to protecting you and your family, remember this: it comes down to simple numbers. Most plastics have recycle symbols on them with a number inside. Dr. Bruce says plastics with the numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 on them are considered a safe choice for food and drink.
The unsafe numbers? 3, 6, and 7. Those contain potentially harmful chemicals like polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and BPA.
BPA is the chemical that often poses the biggest threat, especially to young children as they're developing.
While some plastics-- even those with the "bad" numbers-- have labels that say 'BPA free,' they still contain other warnings, like "hand wash only, do not microwave, do not freeze." That, says Dr. Bruce, is a second big threat. Toxins and chemicals in the plastic can leach out into our foods when they from hot to cold.
"We tend to stick plastic water bottles in the freezer, throw them in our lunch boxes, and maybe leave them in the car," says Dr. Bruce. "We might bring them back in, wash them, maybe refill them. And that's where the danger is."
That means dishwashers and microwaves aren't a safe place for plastics. They start to degrade the more they're exposed to high heat.
"You can feel the plastic starting to degrade," says Bruce. "You'll feel like pits in the plastic, and it almost feels burnt. "
That's when its time to toss out your containers and get new ones.
To avoid degrading, your best option is to take cold food stored in plastic out of the fridge, put it on a plate, then heat it in the microwave.
Dr. Bruce says you also need to be careful with plastic wrap. It should never touch hot foods.
You'll find another so-called "hidden dangers" in your cleaning closet. The harsh chemicals in them can also be easily averted. Dr. Bruce says a less-risky substitute for all-purpose cleaners is water mixed with citrus oils, or water and baking soda.
If you stick to regular bottled commercial cleaners, be sure to wipe away any residue from surfaces after you're done cleaning.