Plastic is all around us.

If you take a look around yourself, you’re likely to see a plethora of plastic in just about every place you look. Sitting here at my desk, I’m typing on my laptop’s plastic keys, and my glasses’ case has a hard plastic shell. The throw blanket nearby is made of microfiber, as are the base of my birds’ cage, my curtain rods, and the pens in a cup nearby. Plastic is all around us, and it’s toxic.

Many studies have discussed plastic’s negative, poisonous effects on the natural environment, and more information surfaces every day about its effects on our bodies as well.

Bisphenol-A (or BPA) has been recognized as an endocrine-disrupting chemical since the 1940s, yet it’s a building block in polycarbonate plastic products made all over the world. Most commonly, it’s found in disposable water bottles and food packaging, the linings in cans, and even in the PVC that lines water pipes in most homes. It’s estimated that over 90% of North Americans have BPA in their blood and tissue, and unlike other toxins, BPA not only sticks around indefinitely—it accumulates. It can even be transferred from mothers to their unborn children, and traces have been found in the bodies of fetuses and newborns.

“It’s an endocrine disruptor and in numerous animal studies it’s been linked to cancer, infertility, obesity and early puberty,” says Anila Jacob, M.D., M.P.H., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. “The CDC has found this chemical in 93 percent of people they have tested,” she says. 

What Can We Do About It?

It’s unlikely that any of us will be able to completely eliminate our exposure to plastic, as we run into them every time we leave the house, but we can make wise choices about the items we bring into our homes. Choosing products made of glass, wood, ceramic, and other natural materials is of vital importance to your well-being, and you can start living a healthier, more plastic-free life today.

Eliminating Plastic

Unless you have a significant amount of cash to toss around, it’s not advisable to throw out every piece of plastic in your place in one fell swoop and replace it all with healthier alternatives. Much like getting rid of a wardrobe that you’re no longer happy with, eliminate one piece at a time and replace it with something new. You can also be more aware of the choices you make when you’re out shopping so you can minimize your exposure to these toxins.

  • Every time you finish a jar of something, whether it’s pasta sauce, jam, baby food, or pickles, save the jar: wash and dry it thoroughly, and then use it to store things instead of using plastic containers. These are ideal for dry goods, leftovers, craft supplies, pet food, and more.
  • Stop using disposable water bottles. A one-time investment of $20 or so will get you a stainless steel or glass drinking bottle that will last the rest of your life. That’s a far cry better than constantly shelling out cash for bottled water, and is healthier for both you, and the environment. Tap water is more highly regulated than bottled water, but you can always use filters for extra cleansing if you like.
  • Skip the acrylics and polyester clothing and wear natural fibers instead. Poly-cotton blends might be a little more wrinkle-free, but what’s a little ironing when it comes to your health and well-being? Clothing made of plant-sourced fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, corn, soy, etc. can be found just about everywhere now, and these fibers are just as beautiful, durable, and stylish as their plastic alternatives. Those in colder climates can go for ethically-sourced wool for warmth, and make sure to dress in layers.
  • Do your research. Check out websites like lifewithoutplastic.com to get an idea of the many different options that are available for everything from lunch boxes and toys to shaving razors, hair brushes, and  toothbrushes.
  • Examine everything. Check labels on your clothing, your children’stoys, and all of your personal care products to determine how many items are made with plastic synthetics. Check labels before buying anything new, and if materials aren’t listed for something you’re interested in, contact the company.
  • Replace your personal care products. If you find that any of your body care products, from deodorants and moisturizers to nail polish or baby care items, contain pthalates, toss them out. Your wardrobe won’t impact your health quite as much as the chemical toxins found in these products (since they’re applied directly to your body), so it’s best to replace these sooner rather than later.
  • Transfer purchased products. If your juice comes in a plastic jug, transfer it to glass bottles as soon as you get home and recyclethe container it came in. The same goes for any other item you’ve bought that’s wrapped or contained in plastic—get it into a healthier container asap. When you go shopping, be sure to bring your own reusable fabric bags as well.

Dr. Erika Nikiforuk N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor) mentioned the importance of detoxifying your life on the White Lotus Integrative Medicine homepage:

“Minimizing the use of plastics, especially in the kitchen, is critical to good health. Chemicals found in plastics are powerful inhibitors of endocrine and reproductive health and can have effects on adults and children alike.”

Take a few moments every day to be mindful of the plastic items you come into direct contact with. It might be helpful to keep a notebook handy so you can jot down your observations about the items you surround yourself with, and hold near your body. Or in it, for that matter; like plastic tampon applicators, dental floss, and ear plugs.

Some people might argue that they have to use plastic items because the alternatives are too expensive, and buying cheap plastic products from dollar stores and low-budget shops is far more affordable. In those situations, it’s important to consider the alternatives: investing in health for the long-term is well worth a few extra dollars. After all, what’s more expensive? Shelling out a few more dollars for glass cups instead of plastic ones? Or paying for infertility and cancer treatments?

We could all do with a little less plastic in our lives, and eliminating even a third of the items we have in our homes can improve our health and well-being.

Learn about some environmental friendly innovations: Best Eco-Innovations of 2012

Featured photo credit: White chair in park, no people via Shutterstock

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