Plastic Bags are the Healthier Option – for Families and the Environment

Recyclable plastic bags don’t pose the potential health risks associated with alternative bags. Hundreds of millions of petroleum based, “non-woven polypropylene” reusable bags are imported from China and other countries each year.1 These are by far the dominant type of “reusable” bags, and some have been found to contain dangerous levels of lead.2 

If reusable bags aren’t sanitized properly after each use, they can harbor dangerous bacteria. Microbiologists have found E. coli, salmonella, fecal coliform, and other harmful bacteria in reusable bags.3

 

Reusable bags can harbor bacteria.

  • A study by the University of Arizona found that 50 percent of all reusable bags contained food-borne bacteria like salmonella, and 12 percent contained E. coli, indicating the presence of fecal matter and other pathogens.4

  • Harmful bacteria can thrive in reusable bags unless users clean them properly after each use with soapy water that is at least 140 degrees.5

  • A Canadian study found bacteria build-up on reusable bags was 300 percent higher than what is considered safe.6

  • Storing reusable bags in a hot trunk — which many people do — causes the bacteria to grow 10 times faster.7

  • In a survey of California and Arizona, 97 percent of individuals indicated they never washed their reusable bags.

  • California researchers studying the potential of nonwoven polypropylene bags to transmit infectious diseases found that a contaminated reusable bag would cross-contaminate any surface it came into contact with, putting nine out of 10 people who go to that grocery store at risk of infection.8

  • Half-a-billion NWPP bags are imported into the U.S. each year9 — 95.5 percent of which end up in landfills.10

Some imported reusable bags have been found to contain toxic lead.

  • Lead, which has recently been detected on the inside of reusable bags imported from overseas, can rub off onto the food families handle and eat.11

  • Lead can cause irreversible damage to the nervous systems and major organs. It inhibits the body’s ability to regulate vitamin D and form red blood cells properly, which can cause seizures, coma, and death. Children can suffer from developmental delay, lower IQ, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, impaired hearing, and stunted growth.12

 

  1. U.S. International Trade Commission: “General First Unit of Quantity by HTS Number and by General First Unit of Quantity Annual” for Harmonized Tariff Schedule 4202923031.
  2. Reusable grocery bags, made in China, found to contain lead, fueling calls for FDA investigation;” Lore Croghan; New York Daily News; November 15, 2010.
  3. Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags;” Charles Gerba; University of Arizona; June 9, 2010.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Environment and Plastics Industry Council, “A Microbiological Study of Reusable Bags and 'First or single-use' Plastic Bags,” May 2009.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags;” Charles Gerba; University of Arizona; June 9, 2010.
  8. Are reusable grocery bags a potential health hazard?” Jake Iversen; KSFY; May 7, 2015.
  9. U.S. International Trade Commission: “General First Unit of Quantity by HTS Number and by General First Unit of Quantity Annual” for Harmonized Tariff Schedule 4202923031.
  10. California State University & Chico Research Foundation, “Life Cycle Assessment of Reusable and Single-Use Plastic Bags in California,” August 2010.
  11. Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags;” Charles Gerba; University of Arizona; June 9, 2010.
  12. Environmental Protection Agency, “Lead at Superfund Sites,” June 2016.

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