What Is Polyethylene & Is It Safe?



Polyethylene is the most common type of consumer plastic. This durable plastic is not biodegradable and may pose health and pregnancy risks. We’ll discuss whether polyethylene is toxic or safe for pregnant women to use. 




What Is Polyethylene?

Polyethylene is the most common thermoplastic. It can be melted into a liquid and converted back into solid at various times. Its durability makes polyethylene attractive for businesses and consumers. This plastic does not fade or chip [1]. 

Polyethylene is not biodegradable, but it is recyclable. 

This plastic is classified into 4 or 5 categories. The higher the density the stronger the material:  

  • Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

  • Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE)

  • Medium-density polyethylene (MDPE)

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

  • Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UWMPE)

Recyclable does not mean sustainable, and Million Marker lists polyethylene as one of the chemicals to avoid. Please consider using plastic-free water bottles and eco-friendly food storage containers for your everyday needs. 

What Products Have Polyethylene In Them?

Polyethylene can be found in:

  • Food packaging 

  • Medical tubing 

  • Bottles and bins 

  • Bulletproof vests 

  • High-tensile cables 

Its durable nature also makes polyethylene an electrical insulator. 

Is Polyethylene Safe?

Polyethylene is toxic if its components leak into beverages and products that could cause health risks.

Polyethylene may be toxic through different manipulations of the plastic [2]: 

  • With the use of the final plastic products.

  • During the manufacturing stage of the plastics.

  • During and due to the thermal decomposition products of plastics.

  • From harmful compounds leaking from materials.

Health Impacts of Polyethylene Products

Health impacts on people [2]: 

  • Mild dermatitis

  • Burning sensation in eyes

  • Dryness and irritation in nose and throat 

  • Itching and irritation of the skin 

  • Asthma 

  • Hormone disruption that may cause reproductive problems [3]

Recommended Alternatives to Polyethylene

We recommend using products made with glass, stainless steel, or wood. These are natural materials and have no adverse impact on hormones. Plus, these materials are more sustainable than using plastic products. 

Here are some suggestions:

How to Avoid Polyethylene

  • Read ingredient labels and avoid purchasing products that contain or are made of polyethylene.

  • You can find our recommended personal care and household products on our Approved Products list!

Purchase our test kit and learn about your harmful chemical exposures.


[1] https://www.reliance-foundry.com/blog/polyethylene-plastic
[2] https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0558/6957/1159/t/8/assets/description_image_ah1998_12.pdf?v=1659972032
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/