Plastic. Walk into any home and within seconds you’re guaranteed to encounter a dozen or two (or more!) items made from it. Before we knew better, plastic was thought of as the ultimate modern-day-miracle material, moldable into any number of useful forms. Once hardened, plastic holds its shape and is super durable and long lasting.

Because plastic is so cheap and so reliable, manufacturers — and consequently consumers — developed an uber-dependency on it. The average kitchen is teeming with plastic items, from those stacks of Tupperware containers to cutting boards, sandwich baggies, kid-friendly cups, plates, baby bottles, one-gallon milk containers and ketchup and mustard bottles. Head to the family room, and there are more things crafted from the synthetic stuff: the packaging that holds the Frozen DVD and Grand Theft Auto video game, Legos, Barbie, heck, even the TV and Xbox are plastic or held together with it. On to bathroom — shampoo bottles, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes —you get the idea.

But here’s the thing: All this functionality comes at a whopper of a personal and global price. For one, in the past several years, more and more research has called out the unsettling and seemingly very real possibility that our constant exposure to plastic is making us sick. Many plastics leach chemicals, including bisphenol A (BPA) and dibutyl phthalates (DBP), that may disrupt the body’s endorcrine system, an intricate system of hormone-producing glands that regulate a bunch of critical functions, including our metabolism, sexual development and function and physical growth.

Just as distressing is new research from the University of Calgary that shows bisphenol S (BPS) — the plastic used to replace BPA — appears to have the same negative effects on neurodevelopment. 

BPA and other endocrine disruptors are so prevalent in our lives — and so present in our bodies — that they’re showing up in our urine.

Related: Should You Stop Eating Canned Tomatoes?

The people most susceptible to harm from these chemicals appear to be babies in utero, infants and young children, whose immune systems and bodies are still developing.

As you might have deduced, a disrupted endocrine system isn’t a good thing. When your body’s endocrine glands get out of whack, scientists suspect that it could lead to (or increase the risk of) a host of health problems, including infertility, low sperm count, prostate cancer and  obesity. More research needs to be done on the specific health effects in humans, but lab animals have shown all of these effects from BPA exposure.

Related: 6 Powerful Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Whether we want to think about it or not, surrounding ourselves with plastic may have serious consequences for our health — not to mention the damage plastic is doing to our land, water and marine life (many sea creatures eat or become entangled in it). Two more unpleasant facts you might hold on to the next time you’re tempted to purchase bottled water: A single water bottle can take 1,000 years to biodegrade, and 46,000 pieces of plastic occupy each square mile of ocean.

If relying on plastics for too many things (including grocery bags) is starting to sound like a bad habit you’d like to break, then check out the infographic below for simple, effective ways you can dial back your plastic dependency starting now.

plastic infographic (Photo: CustomMade)

Maureen is an award-winning producer of multi-media content. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, iVillage, AOLOn, The Dr. Oz Show, PBS, and the Redbook and Parenting websites. She is the author of three books, including the best-selling e-book "Ready, Set, Baby! The Watch and Learn Guide to Your Baby’s First Year." Her favorite safety tip: Clean scrapes and cuts right away, even tiny ones. Apply antibiotic ointment before bandaging. Nobody wants bacteria invading their skin!

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