Many women ask if polypropylene is toxic, and the answer is no. Polypropylene is not made of any toxic chemicals and is a very popular plastic type. It has a major role in the manufacturing of plastic food containers, rugs, plastic bottles, and yogurt containers.
PP is safe to use, which is why it is used in manufacturing yogurt cups, baby bottles, and Tupperware. It packs a lot of advantages, such as being inexpensive, durable, breathable, water resistant, and environmentally friendly. While polypropylene (PP) is a safer plastic, you should still avoid it when pregnant. This is to ensure that no toxic materials can reach your baby, but this is just a precaution.
What is Polypropylene Made of?
Polypropylene goes through various processes to be made. The basic constituent in making polypropylene is propylene gas, one of the volatile organic compounds, which is polymerized with the help of a catalyst system. The two most common catalysts used for this polymerization are metallocene and Ziegler-Natta. Different grades of polypropylene require different settings. Each setting, including the temperature, pressure, thermal processing and concentration of reactants, needs to be carefully set to the right amount. There are two types of processes, namely gas phase processes and liquid phase processes, both of which have many different techniques for producing polypropylene.
Gas phase: A special machine called a fluidized bed reactor is used to make polypropylene. This reactor is designed to hold a catalyst material that helps the propane and hydrogen molecules react with each other at a temperature between 70 to 100°C and a pressure between 1 to 20 atm. As the propane and hydrogen flow through the reactor, they come into contact with the catalyst, and a reaction occurs that turns the propane into polypropylene in the form of fine particles.
After the reaction is complete, a cyclone separator separates the fine powder from any leftover fumes produced. This powder can then be pelletized and incorporated in many different manufacturing processes. To improve the efficiency of the process and reduce waste, high-activity catalysts are used that help eliminates gaseous and aqueous effluents.
The Spheripol process: This is a way to make polypropylene using propene, ethylene, and hydrogen. To do this, the ingredients are mixed with a catalyst and are suspended in a liquid that doesn’t react with them. This liquid helps to keep everything mixed together.
Next, this mixture is pumped into one or two big machines called stirred gas phase reactors, where the plastic starts to form. These reactors stir the mixture to ensure the reaction happens evenly. The reaction happens at a precise temperature and pressure, which helps to make sure the plastic turns out just right.
Once the reaction is finished, the plastic powder and any leftover ingredients are taken out using special tubes. Any unused ingredients are recycled back into the reactors to be reused safely. The plastic powder is stored until needed for something else, like making containers or toys.
Is Polypropylene Same as Plastic?
The main difference is that polypropylene can be made crystal clear, while plastic is usually semi-clear. Additionally, polypropylene is made from a gas called propylene, while plastic is usually made from oil-based materials.
In terms of their properties, polypropylene is lightweight, not very harmful to people, and has high heat tolerance. On the other hand, plastic is resistant to damage from things like rust, doesn’t conduct heat or electricity very well, comes in many different colors, and is generally less expensive than polypropylene. However, it has a low melting point.
When we choose which material to use for a particular product, we consider what properties are most important. For example, if we want something that can be seen through, we might choose polypropylene, but if we want something that is durable and won’t rust, we might choose plastic. Ultimately, both materials have their own unique set of benefits and limitations.
Is Polypropylene Safer Than Other Plastics?
Polypropylene (PP) is a kind of plastic that is considered very safe for people to use, and no research has deemed polypropylene toxic. This plastic is strong and can handle high temperatures without releasing harmful chemicals, even when it comes into contact with hot water. PP is also safe for storing food and drinks. It’s made from oil, but it’s considered quite environmentally friendly. PP is not known to cause cancer in people and is less likely to catch on fire when used in clothes compared to other materials like wool.
What to Know About the Toxicity of Polypropylene
Although polypropylene is generally considered safe to use, we should still try to limit our use of plastics and plastic additives because they contain chemicals linked to cancer and negatively impact human health. Pregnant women need to be much more careful with these, as these chemicals can affect the developing fetus.
Is Polypropylene Toxic?
One of the chemicals commonly found in plastic products is called BPA. If you notice a recycling symbol with the number seven on a plastic item, the product may contain BPA. However, some plastics with this number are BPA-free. These will have a stamp of PLA or a leaf symbol. To be safe, it’s best to avoid using plastic products whenever possible, especially when it comes to food storage.
Research has found that the central nervous system in fetuses is affected by BPA (Braun et al., 2009). Expectant women who had high amounts of BPA in their urine had much higher chances of birthing girls who were anxious, hyperactive, or depressed at an early age (Harvard Health Publishing, 2019). It’s not clear why BPA affects girls more than boys, but one should be aware of the risks. The American Cancer Society found that exposure to BPA has been linked to cancer (American Cancer Society, 2022).
Moreover, BPA has been linked to several other diseases, including obesity and diabetes, and has been known to produce mild gastrointestinal irritation. Additionally, it has been associated with immune system issues, sex reversal in frogs, brain and neurological damage, and cardiovascular system damage. Brief contact with it can cause severe thermal bums, and it contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals, too. It can also cause respiratory irritation and severe injury to organs.
Tips to Avoid Toxic Chemicals: Beware the Plastic Food Containers
You can take several steps to reduce exposure to a chemical called BPA which is found in plastic products. Don’t buy plastic water bottles; instead, go for glass, steel, or ceramic bottles that you can refill. Eating less canned food and avoiding canned formula for your baby is also best. Use glass or ceramic dishes to heat your food.
Plastic containers should never be washed in the dishwasher because the warm or hot water may leach plastic additives onto other items. Many plastic items have the “BPA-free” mark. When shopping, read the food packaging carefully and avoid plastics labeled as microwave-safe because that doesn’t necessarily mean they are chemical-free. When you’re shopping for plastic products, check to see if they are BPA-free. Wash your hands well after handling receipts from stores, and don’t cook or heat food in plastic containers. Also, avoid using roasting or steaming bags to heat your food. You should also be careful when microwaving food using plastic.
About Polypropylene and Other Plastics
Acrylic or polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is a clear plastic that is commonly used as a substitute for glass. Despite being lightweight, it doesn’t break easily. It can be made in different colors and has many special features, like being scratch-resistant, able to block UV rays, and even resistant to bullets. Acrylic is much stronger than glass and has a wide variety of applications in different fields. It is also easier to work with than glass or other plastics.
Polycarbonate, one of the toxic plastics, is a super strong plastic that’s see-through like glass but way stronger. It’s 250 times stronger than glass and 30 times stronger than acrylic. It’s easy to work with, so it can be cut and molded into all sorts of shapes. Because it’s so strong and can be cut on-site, it’s used in lots of different products like greenhouses, DVDs, sunglasses, and even riot gear for police officers.
Polycarbonate is often associated with bisphenol A (BPA). It is used in manufacturing baby bottles, sippy cups, and other plastic products. However, some countries have banned its use in baby products due to its toxicity. BPA found in PC has been linked to many health problems, including damage to female ovaries, decreased sperm production in males, and changes in behavior. Because of all these risks, avoiding using PCs as much as possible is highly recommended. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed the low recycling process rate of PC means it has a potentially toxic impact on the environment.
Polyethylene is a very common plastic that can be made into different densities to create unique physical properties. There are four common densities of polyethylene, each used in various products.
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is very flexible and can be found in shopping bags, plastic bags, common food containers, and disposable packaging.
Medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) is denser than LDPE and can be found in gas pipes, carrier bags, and screw closures.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is even more rigid than LDPE and MDPE and can be found in products such as piping for water and sewer, snowboards, and folding chairs.
Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) is not much denser than HDPE but is much more abrasion-resistant because of its long polymer chains. It is used in military body armor, hydraulic bearings, biomaterial for implants, and might hold hot or molten material.
Polypropylene is a common type of plastic that is flexible, strong, and can withstand heat and acid. It is the second most produced plastic in the world and is used to make various things like lab equipment, car parts, medical devices, and food containers. Because it is durable and cheap, it is popular for many different uses. Even though it can handle more serious irritation than some other plastics, it is still flexible and safe. This is why many people also like polypropylene rugs. Health administrations have also deemed polypropylene rugs safe. A fun fact is that many people think these rugs are made of natural fibers, but actually, they are comprised of synthetic material.
This is a popular type of plastic and comes from the polyester family. It is commonly used to make clothing fibers, food and liquid containers, and many other everyday products. This plastic is durable, lightweight, and resistant to damage from chemicals and water. Recycling is also easy, making it a good choice for reducing waste. PET is used in a wide variety of applications due to its impressive strength-to-weight ratio and shatterproof properties.
PVC can be made into hard or flexible materials. It is often mixed with another material to create new products, such as foam boards for displays or construction materials, like doors and windows. Adding certain chemicals allows PVC to become soft and bendable and to be used for pipes, electrical wiring, and medical tubing.
ABS is a strong and flexible plastic that is made by mixing styrene and acrylonitrile with a molten material called polybutadiene. This plastic can be made into sheets that come in different thicknesses and widths, and it is easy to work with. ABS plastic is resistant to mechanical irritation and has a shiny surface. It is also relatively cheap to make, which is why it is commonly used in mechanical rubbing and the automotive and refrigeration industries.
Polypropylene is deemed safe by several safety organizations. This means you can use plastic food containers and food packaging without worries. While specific plastic materials are harmful, PP is not one of them. So store hot tomato soup in your common food containers, stop looking for polypropylene rug alternatives, and don’t be scared of things made up of any synthetic material. Most of these synthetic materials have been deemed environmentally friendly and do not have many harsh chemicals. Just make sure that whatever you are buying is health administration and FDA-approved.