February 20, 2019
Was the end of one-time use of plastic bags worth it?
LOMA LINDA – (INT) - Fallout from California’s plastic bag ban has taken on a new concern.

Consider the public-health profile of reusable cloth bags.

A study conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University measured bacteria in a sample of reusable bags, finding many containing dangerous ones, such as coliform (found in half the bags) and E. coli (found in 12 percent of bags).

Pathogens can develop from leaky meat packages as well as unwashed produce. And consumers reported that they rarely wash the bags, according to the study.

The consequences of such contamination can be serious. After San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007, the number of emergency room visits for bacterial related diseases increased, according to a study conducted five years later by legal scholars at George Mason University and the University of Pennsylvania.

"ER visits spiked when the ban went into effect," the study explained. "Relative to other counties, ER admissions increases by at least one fourth, and deaths exhibit a similar increase."

While correlation doesn't prove causation, the jump in ER admissions in San Francisco was high enough to at least merit further examination by legislators and public-health authorities in New York before they force reusable bags on residents.

Reusable bags, moreover, require far more energy and other resources to make, and they may produce more landfill waste. A 2011 study by the UK government's Environment Agency found that cotton bags would have to be used 131 times before they yield environmental benefits.

As for paper bags, they do work in many cases and break down easier if they become litter. But these have their trade-offs, as well.
Story Date: February 14, 2019
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