Essential Oils and Plastics… Yes or No?

What are “They” saying about this?

I have been hearing a bit about using plastics with essential oils and there is a bit of ‘she’ said ‘he’ said ‘they’ say information out there. Some say that you should never use plastic to store essential oils and others say it is okay. As per usual, not being one for ‘just believing’ because ‘they’ say it is so [who are ‘they’ by the way?? the question of the century], I conducted some research. Obviously, ironically this does make this article another one of those “She” says things however, you can be assured I have done research, sites will be referenced and you can then run off to do your own research and share any differences or ‘new’ information with me. I am all about sharing knowledge. Don’t take my word for it, always look for your own clarification.

My research shows that Essential Oils behave like Solvents.

Ah hold up, say what?? This is a scary concept isn’t it? Brings up pictures of paints, chemicals and all sorts of things that are bad for healthy living and humans in general and you wouldn’t be wrong with that perception of what a solvent is. However, did you know that a general definition of a solvent is simply a substance that is capable of dissolving another substance which then forms a solution? Exhale, close down that panic station it is all good.

For example, Water is considered a solvent. Why? Because there are a multitude of things that can be dissolved in water which then changes the water to a solution, for example, sugar.

Water (when used properly) we know is not bad for us (generally speaking as some water can be contaminated and too much water is not a good thing either). Essential Oils have similar compounds in them that puts them in the solvent category just like water. Other examples of solvents that are harmless to humans (when used properly) are oxygen (they don’t have to be liquids), citric acid and alcohol. So although Essential Oils are considered to be solvent in composition (some more than others) just like water, alcohol and citric acid, they are also not bad for us when used properly.

Britannica Encyclopedia online

Definition

Why are oils kept in dark or tinted containers?

Essential Oils are volatile compounds and are sensitive to sun exposure. Sunlight will deteriorate the quality and benefit [updated from US terms – therapeutic value] of an essential oil and for this reason it is best to keep them in amber or cobalt blue containers which help to block the UV rays.

It is also best to keep them in a cool dark place as heating the oils can also damage the benefits [updated from US term; therapeutic value] of an essential oil – thus do not store above a heat source (oven/heater etc) or in direct sun exposure.

Find more information see here: aromaweb.com

If glass containers are the best option to store an essential oil why do some companies use plastic for some of their products?

I use dōTERRA oils and can only really comment on this brand, however I am sure the other reputable EO companies out there use the same plastics for the same reasons. What you should notice is that all the products that have been stored or packaged in plastic containers are products that ‘contain’ essential oils rather than just being an essential oil, such as a shampoo or a moisturiser etc. Meaning, that the products have an essential oil as part of the product formula. Therefore it is a diluted essential oil, not a concentrate.

What type of plastics are there and which ones are good for storing diluted essential oils?

All plastic types

The dōTERRA products I have used being packaged in plastic containers, have been recyclable 1 plastic which is PETE or PET plastics. That does not mean that this is the only type of plastic used; just the ones I have come into contact with.

The types of plastics that would be suitable for diluted essential oils are as follows:

The following information are excerpts which have been taken from the following website:

abundanthealth4u.com

All the below plastics are “Not known to leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones. However, as with many plastic products, if reused multiple times, the chemicals can start to break down over time.”

PETE/PET – Polyethylene Terephtalate – Depending on how it is processed and heated, PET can appear transparent. It is clear, tough, and shatter proof. PET is excellent for any food-related products and is FDA, NSF, and USDA approved for direct contact. Some common uses include soft drink, water, sports drink, mouthwash, ketchup, and salad dressing bottles; and peanut butter, pickle, jelly, and jam jars. PET does not contain BPA or any oestrogen-like chemicals. (Recyclable 1)

HDPE – High Density Polyethylene – HDPE has excellent resistance to diluted and concentrated acids, alcohols, and bases. It has good resistance to aldehyde, esters, aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, and mineral and vegetable oils. It is excellent for any food-related products and is FDA, NSF, and USDA approved for direct contact. Some common uses include milk, water, and juice bottles; yoghurt and margarine tubs; cereal box liners; and grocery, trash, and retail bags. It is also used in bottles for household item such as shampoo, conditioner, detergent, cleaners, etc. (Recyclable 2)

MDPE – Medium-Density Polyethylene – MDPE has excellent resistance to diluted and concentrated acids, alcohols, and bases. It has good resistance to aldehyde, esters, aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, ketones, and mineral and vegetable oils. It is excellent for any food-related products and is FDA, NSF, and USDA approved for direct contact. Some common uses include milk, water, and juice bottles; yoghurt and margarine tubs; cereal box liners; and grocery, trash, and retail bags. It is used in bottles for household item such as shampoo, conditioner, detergent, cleaners, etc. It is also used in gas pipes and fittings and screw closures. (Recyclable 2)

LDPE – Low-Density Polyethylene – more ductile, less dense, and allows for greater deformation. It has good resistance to dilute and concentrated acids, alcohols, bases, aldehyde, esters, ketones, and vegetable oils. The FDA, NSF, and USDA have not approved LDPE for direct contact and suggest limiting ingress exposure. Some common uses include dispensing, wash, and squeeze bottles; plastic bags, heavy duty sacks, liners, and other general packaging; and toys. (Recyclable 4)

PP – Polypropylene – is semi-rigid, tough, less dense, and resistant to chemicals, heat, and fatigue. It has good resistance to diluted acids and alkalis, alcohols, oils, and greases. It is excellent for any food-related products and is FDA, NSF, and USDA approved for direct contact. Some common uses include packaging and labelling; flip-top bottles, food containers, disposable bottles, coolers, plastic pails, and waste baskets; ropes, plastic mouldings, some yarns, and non woven fabrics like diapers and sanitary products; and air, gas, and liquid filters. (Recyclable 5)

Generally, in my personal opinion, if the plastic is strong enough to hold an acid without corrosion then it will hold an essential oil without damage either; if it is excellent for food related products (direct contact) then it is also safe for diluted (some even concentrated) essential oils. In addition, if the plastic is not known to leach this is ideal. As you will note that some have ‘excellent’ resistance to diluted and concentrated acids and others have ‘good’ resistance’ to diluted &/or concentrated acids. For my own personal preference, I would only use plastics noted as ‘excellent’.

My Conclusion – Plastics & Essential Oils – Yes or No?:

For me it is a Yes & No – it all depends on the situation. For use in my household I would use the general rule of thumb for the storage of essential oils is that they are best to be kept in amber or cobalt glass containers which are immune to the leaching and the solvency composition of the essential oils and also protects them from UV rays. IF the oil is diluted then I may store them in plastic. I would use either Recycle 1 or 2 plastics based on my research. IF I use an oil internally then I would (recommend) use either a glass, stainless steel or ceramic vessel because frequent/multiple use of any plastic can lead it to breakdown.

Side note: only internally use those oils that have received the relevant authorisation to be used as a supplement or flavouring; see branding of said oils and refer to company of origin if you have any questions (I can help with dōTERRA products).

Hope you find this as helpful as I did.

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