You hear reps all the time saying don’t use plastics with essential oils, but then you will see that same company bottling their products (think shampoo, conditioner and hand soap) in plastic bottles. I was really curious about this, so I decided to dig in and of course share the information with you.
Why do reps tell you not to use oils in plastic containers in the first place? I began to question this after squeezing lemon (not oil, just a regular lemon slice) into a styrophome cup on an airplane years ago. After about 15 minutes the inside of the cup had parts of the styrophome that were literally melting. That’s when I began thinking about how different materials are better than others for drinking/storing things.
Fast forward a decade and I’m in grad school getting my MFA in Glass Sculpture when I began helping a bioengineering PHD candidate on his dissertation. He was looking for a way to create a glass medical slide that had channels running lengthwise with a little well at either end so that they could put a chemical in one end and grow brain neurons on the other end to see how different chemicals affect the brain, and whether the neurons grow towards the chemical or away from it. Crazy right, I was an art major helping this literal brainiac. Well he needed my help because glass is one of the most resistant materials there is to chemical breakdown (other than a few very strong acids it is impervious to chemical interaction in it’s solid state. At the time the only product on the market to do this type of analysis was plastic, but in many cases the plastic would interfere with the chemicals undermining the results. I know this is crazy.
Needless to say I am now researching essential oils and everyone says don’t use plastic… Even I tell people not to do it because I know that lemon oil (the one most commonly taken internally with water) can break down styrophome, I can’t even imagine what other oils can do.
The bottom line is this, plastics are reacting with a host of things, some as benign as water, imagine what essential oils can do. They are showing to release hormone disruptors as well as other harmful chemicals. As such glass is always your best option. There are plastics that people say are ok to use with oils, I would say use them sparingly, and only in a pinch when you have no other option.
So what plastics are “considered” safe?
- HDPE plastic (High Density Polyethylene)
- #1 plastic
- #2 plastic
- Thick, food grade plastic
As far as the hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and other products; the potency of the essential oils are reduced dramatically when they are diluted in these products, therefore not having the same effect on the plastic, and if you are buying from a reputable company, they will always be in one of the above plastic containers. DoTerra uses number one plastic for their packaging containers, however after a quick search I did find this about plastic #1; it is from a site called “living without plastic”, so it is not unbiased. It is interesting however.
“Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE or polyester)
Description: PET is the most well known member of the polyester family of plastic polymers. It initially gained widespread use as a wrinkle-free fiber (commonly called “polyester”), and the majority of its production still goes toward textile manufacturing. It has become extremely popular for food and drink packaging purposes because of its strong ability to create a liquid and gas barrier – so oxygen cannot get in to spoil food, and the carbon dioxide that makes drinks fizzy cannot get out. Properties: clarity, lightness, strength, toughness, barrier to liquid and gas.
Typical Use: Bottles (water, soft drink, juice, beer, wine, mouthwash, salad dressing), peanut butter/jam jars, oven-ready and microwaveable meal trays, detergent and cleaner containers. Also used in liquid crystal displays, film for capacitors, insulation for wire and insulating tapes, and as a common finish for wood products such as guitars, pianos and vehicle/yacht interiors.
PET fabric (polyester) is commonly used in textiles (fabric and clothing), padding and insulation (for pillows, comforters, upholstery), carpet, and mouldings. Also for tyre reinforcements, conveyor belts, safety belts, coated fabrics and tarpaulins.
Toxicity: PET may leach antimony (antimony trioxide is used as a catalyst and flame retardant in PET) (PET1, PET2). The longer a liquid is left in a PET container the greater the potential for release. As well, warm temperatures inside cars, garages, and enclosed storage areas increase the release of antimony into the liquid. Antimony trioxide is considered a possible carcinogen (PET3). Workers exposed to antimony trioxide for long periods of time have exhibited respiratory and skin irritation and among female workers, increased incidence of menstrual problems and miscarriage — while there is no evidence that these effects could arise from exposure to the small amounts of antimony released from PET products (such as water bottles), we prefer not to be exposed to it at all (PET3).
Evidence is also emerging that phthalate endocrine disruptors also leach from PET (PET4, PET5).
PET as a textile – i.e., polyester – likely contains flame retardants incorporated into it during the manufacturing process. As such, polyester is often described as “inherently flame retardant”, but it is unclear exactly which flame retardant chemicals are added to polyester as it is being made, and thus it is difficult to know if there is a toxicity issue with polyester fibre.
Recycling: About 29% (PET6). Recycled material downcycled into polyester fibre for fleece clothing, tote bags, strapping. Note: “Downcycling” means that the recycled material is of lower quality than the original PET, and can only be made into progressively lower quality products until it can no longer be recycled and becomes landfill waste which is most likely landfilled.
Alternatives: Use a glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle. Buy in glass and reuse those bottles/jars – mason jars are incredibly versatile. Choose natural fabrics (e.g., organic cotton, wool, hemp) for clothing.
Our Suggestion: AVOID. Many consider PET a relatively safe single use plastic, but given the research indicating it can release antimony and phthalates, and our precautionary approach, we suggest avoiding it whenever possible. If you must use it, keep it away from heat and do not reuse it.”
However then I ran across some studies being done in Germany, and since I typically trust European and Australian interests in health over commercialism, I personally, always give a little more weight to studies being done there. Although the results are different, and not complete yet, the resulting opinion, I couldn’t agree with more; “it may be time to consider how safe so-called safe plastics really are”.
German mineral water comes from natural springs. So, to see if the estrogenic compounds were actually coming from the water itself, Wagner emptied the bottles and replaced the water with a pure snail medium and a tiny species of snail that is especially sensitive to estrogenic compounds. Eight weeks later, female snails living in plastic bottles had more than twice as many embryos inside their bodies compared to the glass-grown snails. “Something from the plastic,” says Wagner, “must have leached out and changed the reproductive patterns of our snails.” Wagner cautions against jumping to conclusions. Water is still a healthy beverage, he says. And until the compounds at work in the snail study have been identified, it’s not possible to know if PET plastics pose a human health risk. Still, tests in his lab have shown far less estrogenic activity in tap water than in even the most “ultra-pure” bottled waters. “Having done all of these experiments, I started drinking tap water,” says Wagner. “It might have other stuff in it, but at least it doesn’t have estrogenic compounds.” Swan says, it may also be time to reconsider how safe so-called “safe” plastics really are. “I used to say: ‘4, 5, 1, and 2. All the rest are bad for you,'” she says, referring to the recycling codes on plastic products. “Now, I’m not saying that anymore. We don’t know about 4, 5, 1, or 2. This raises questions about all plastic bottles.”
Another source says :
Never Use Oils in These:
- Water bottles
- Solo cups and their equivalents
- Plastic drinking straws
- Plastic kitchenware
- Thin plastic containers
As far as me, I will continue to purchase my products because I love them, but am actively looking for glass containers to put them in. The problem is that most glass containers have plastic pumps and caps and things like that. I’ll let you know what I find.
That’s all for now