Message on a Bottle: Decoding the Numbers

RUMOR
Bottles With Plastic Recycling Numbers Below "5" Release Cancer-Causing Chemicals

STATUS
Busted!

ORIGINS
Unknown. Earlier versions of this hoax often specify water bottles (see below), while newer versions sometimes mention bottles for tea or other beverages.

BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR:

As you know chemical released by plastic water bottles can cause cancer (It is not the water that affects you but the chemical released from the bottle)

How to avoid: Check the bottom of the bottle there should be a triangle sign and there will be a number on it. If the number is higher than or equal to 5 --> then this bottle is safe to use. Numbers under 5 will release the chemical. For most bottled water, the number is 1. Remember to check and stop reusing those bottles.

[Note: Grammatical errors left intact.]

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

While it’s true that many plastics are imprinted with a numeric code, this e-mail’s cancer warning misses the mark. Like all materials intended to come in contact with foods or beverages, the plastics that are used to make beverage bottles are subject to federal safety review and regulations. Such materials must meet stringent U.S. Food and Drug Administration safety standards before they can be marketed to consumers.

So, what’s in a number? The numeric codes that you see on many plastic items are used to help sort post-consumer plastics for recycling purposes. Different types of plastics are sometimes referred to as “resins” and the numeric symbols are known as “Resin ID Codes.” Each number (1 through 6) signifies a specific type of plastic and usually appears inside a small triangle (often formed by three adjoining arrows) imprinted on the bottom of a plastic item. The number “7” is used to represent a group of other plastics or combinations of plastics. Resin ID codes are not intended to provide guidance on the safe or appropriate use of any plastic item and should not be used for this purpose.

Watch out for cell phone spam! In some areas, this hoax is circulating from cell phone to cell phone in the form of a text message. We’re not exactly sure what to call this new phenomenon, but we do know this: Lots of cell phone plans charge for text messaging and most of us don’t want to pay for a prank. So, if you should happen to receive this tall-tale text, after you’ve deleted it, consider calling the sender during off-peak hours and letting him or her know that forwarding unconfirmed health scares is a bad idea.

Are you recycling as much as you could be? The number of post-consumer plastic bottles collected in the United States has increased every year since plastic bottle recycling was first calculated in 1990. In 2005, that number jumped to over 2.1 billion pounds of post-consumer plastic bottles, and the overall plastic bottle recycling rate climbed to 24.3 percent. But in addition to charting our continued progress, this number shows that there’s still a lot more we can do to recycle plastic bottles. Recycling varies widely, so it’s a good idea to find out what plastics are recycled in your community.

Tip: Many municipalities list the types of materials they do and don’t accept for recycling on their websites. To get started, go to your favorite search engine and enter the name of your county, city or township and the word “recycling.” If your municipality’s website doesn’t provide this information, you should be able to locate a phone number so you can call and ask.

Note: Recycling facilities may not be available in all areas. Check to see if recycling facilities exist in your area.

MORE RESOURCES AND INFORMATION