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Are Plastic Bag Bans Making People Sick?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the deadliest-bag dept.

Medicine 533

theodp writes "A paper by Wharton's Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright suggested that San Francisco's eco-friendly ban on plastic bags might actually be killing people. Klick and Wright found that food-borne illnesses in San Francisco increased 46% after the bag ban went into effect in 2007, with no such uptick in neighboring counties. Most likely, the authors concluded, this was due to the fact that people were putting their food into dirty reusable bags and not washing them afterward. But Tomas Aragon, an epidemiologist at UC Berkeley and health officer for the city of San Francisco, begs to differ, arguing that in order to establish a link between the bag ban and illnesses, the authors would have to show that the same people who are using reusable bags are also the ones getting sick. Aragon offers an alternative hypothesis for the recent rise in deaths related to intestinal infections, noting that a large portion of the cases in San Francisco involve C. difficile enterocolitis, a disease that's often coded as food-borne illness in hospitals which has become more common in lots of places since 2005, all around the U.S., Canada, and Europe (for yet-unexplained reasons). 'The increase in San Francisco,' he suggests, 'probably reflects this international increase.'"

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That's funny.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935095)

In Ireland that didn't happen when they introduced a levy on plastic bags years ago and their usage plummeted.
Might I humbly suggest the cause lies elsewhere? Such as the original food quality. [insert nauseating overused quote about correlation!=causality]

Re:That's funny.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935183)

Oh, but you are underestimating the laziness of Americans! Our country is plagued with apathy.

Re:That's funny.... (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935211)

Apathy in America? Who cares? Seriously, who does care? I'm too lazy to look it up.

Re:That's funny.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935421)

It's the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Re:That's funny.... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935501)

Laws are theories. Laws are untested engineering. They should be treated as such.

If we do X, then Y will happen.

There should be followup with mandatory review. Hell, mandatory re-vote, with optional update or it expires.

Re:That's funny.... (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935275)

The rest of Europe too. Bags are mostly banned there but the population isn't dropping like flies.

This study is flawed, methinks.

Re:That's funny.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935441)

I've done a study of my own as well, one the likes of this one, and I've found that most of the wars, massacres and assassinations were my fault. Why? Well, for most of the occurrences (like 99%) I slept that day/night. Coincidence? Think not, statistics don't lie.

Some people just overreach for causality. I used to think that most who did were conspiracy theorists (aka loonies), but more and more often I see studies like this one and wonder... How the hell can I get payed for crap like this as well?

Re:That's funny.... (4, Insightful)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935465)

The rest of Europe too. Bags are mostly banned there but the population isn't dropping like flies.

This study is flawed, methinks.

The paper doesn't say anything about the population dropping like flies. Do you have statistics for food-based illness in Europe before and after a similar ban?

Re:That's funny.... (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935511)

Do you have any data to back that up? The effect could be subtle enough not to be picked up, especially when it was so unexpected. If it hasn't been tested, correlating bag use in Europe with food-borne disease would be an obvious test.

Bathing (4, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935595)

San Fran has a fairly low incidence of people bathing regularly.

At least that's what my nose told me the last time I was there.

Re:That's funny.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935393)

Like the fact that most people are too stupid to WASH their reuseable bags?

Re:That's funny.... (1)

Ayanami_R (1725178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935463)

This. People aren't packing their bags correctly, putting meats and veggies together. They also are failing to keep them clean in some instances.

Re:That's funny.... (4, Insightful)

Jetra (2622687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935469)

Those things are about as dishwasher friendly as a cat with a scratching post. My question is why aren't they using paper bags? Those things are far better than any reusable bag I've ever had. On the plus side, they're multipurpose as well as 100/% recyclable.

Re:That's funny.... (4, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935655)

Those things are about as dishwasher friendly as a cat with a scratching post. My question is why aren't they using paper bags? Those things are far better than any reusable bag I've ever had. On the plus side, they're multipurpose as well as 100/% recyclable.

Most supermarkets round here (and most in Europe) have two kinds of reusable bag -- one that's sold for between 10-50p (depending on taxes), and is essentially a thicker plastic bag with better handles, like one you might get from a luxury clothes shop.

The other kind is £1 or more, and made from some kind of durable plastic sheeting. It's not possible to screw these up into a ball, and they last pretty much forever.

(Paper bags, if used only once, can be worse for the environment as they're heavier, so the transport cost is greater.)

Re:That's funny.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935673)

Many areas without a paper industry have very low quality paper bags and because of this the paper bags have a bad reputation.
In some places it's so bad that the slightest air humidity makes the bags pretty much unusable.

Re:That's funny.... (2)

s0nicfreak (615390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935679)

Dishwasher?! They're cloth; you either put them in a washing machine, or handwash them as you would any fragile cloth (which method is appropriate for each particular bag is listed on the tag). Are there seriously people that don't know this?

Re:That's funny.... (5, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935739)

Why the hell would I wash a reusable cloth shopping bag. I don't stick slices of bread in it, I stick a packaged loaf of bread in it. I don't stick unbagged fruit and vegetables, they are all separately bagged. I can't imagine walking up to the meat section and start throwing unpacked chunks of meat into the bag, all of it is individually packed. The mind boggles at pouring milk into the bag rather than getting a sealed container.

I've been using them for years, they are still pretty much clean, I might have cleaned one bag when there was a spill but that was it. No smells or odours from the bag, no weird growths and no illness. Me thinks the idiot neither does the shopping nor the cooking. Rinse all fruit and vegetable prior to eating or cooking. Check for dirty packages prior to storing in pantry or fridge and give them a wipe over if neccesary, pretty rare.

Next people will be going nuts over how dirty and disease ridden money is and handling it whilst handling your groceries.

Re:That's funny.... (0, Flamebait)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935455)

In Ireland that didn't happen when they introduced a levy on plastic bags years ago and their usage plummeted.

Citation? Your statement is empty as an anecdote.

Re:That's funny.... (5, Interesting)

Plasmoid2000ad (1004859) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935705)

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/plastic-bag-levy-nets-166m-in-10-years-185605.html [irishexaminer.com] http://www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Gastroenteric/Clostridiumdifficile/CdifficileSurveillance/CdifficileEnhancedSurveillance/Reports/File,13565,en.pdf [www.hpsc.ie] Shows a rise in C Diff in the last 2 years, but long after introduction of plastic bag levy. Also shows that most cases are still sourced as Hospital based infections. Seriously... both are the first links on a Google search. Lack of sources is hardly a defense for you snarky comment and bout of laziness.

Re:That's funny.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935499)

What about the fact that our foods are packaged. Even when you buy fresh fruits and vegetables there are packages to put them into.

What about paper bags? (2)

MarioMax (907837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935135)

I'm wondering if there's a difference between paper bag users and plastic bag users. Not routinely washing a reusable bag is a plausible source for disease, but it isn't the only thing to consider.

Re:What about paper bags? (-1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935217)

The only objective to ban plastic bags was to minimize the costs to supermarkets. It was a disgusting lobby with an "eco friendly" excuse. There is no chance in hell they will distribute paper bags or any non re-utilizable bag.

Re:What about paper bags? (4, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935327)

I can't vouch for San Francisco, but in the UK, the supermarkets have always fought against plastic bag bans. Which suggests to me you are inventing a conspiracy where there isn't one.

Re:What about paper bags? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935721)

I like the way Aldi does it. If you want bags, pick paper, plastic or reusable, and pay accordingly. I get the plastic bags because they're much better than paper bags, and aren't actually a threat to our ecosystem.

Re:What about paper bags? (1)

Literaphile (927079) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935349)

The only objective to ban plastic bags was to minimize the costs to supermarkets. It was a disgusting lobby with an "eco friendly" excuse. There is no chance in hell they will distribute paper bags or any non re-utilizable bag.

As with any generalization, you're bound to be wrong. The dominant supermarket chain around here (Victoria, BC) uses paper bags.

Re: What about paper bags? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935529)

Hmm, must have totally different stores to Nanaimo then. Canadian superstore: plastic, save on: plastic Thrifty. Plasticc. Wlmart. Plastic. ?

Re:What about paper bags? (1)

MarioMax (907837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935459)

The only objective to ban plastic bags was to minimize the costs to supermarkets.

Considering the amount of money that Walmart has invested in useless plastic bag carousels at their checkout lanes, I'd say the cost of the bags themselves to the retailers is pretty trivial.

It was a disgusting lobby with an "eco friendly" excuse.

Probably.

There is no chance in hell they will distribute paper bags or any non re-utilizable bag.

Most grocery chains in Arizona (unless you count Walmart as a grocery chain) offer paper, plastic, and reusable. Plastic is ---by far--- the most common choice.

Re:What about paper bags? (3, Insightful)

s0nicfreak (615390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935527)

Wait, what's useless about the bag carousels? All of the reusable bags Walmart sells fit on there as well, and they make bagging way more quick and efficient.

Re:What about paper bags? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935585)

How are they useless? The cashier spends less time bagging using that system than they would with conventional free standing racks from which they have to detach each bag. This system has the customer spend the time doing that task instead. It also allows the cashier to start on the next customer while the current one is removing his/her last final bags. Sure it is probably only a 5-10% time savings, but that means you can get by with fewer cashiers or have reduced time in line.

Re:What about paper bags? (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935301)

Not routinely washing a reusable bag is a plausible source for disease

Just an observation: Doesn't food usually have its own packaging/wrappers to protect it from the filthy bags?

Re:What about paper bags? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935325)

Many fruits & vegetables don't come prepackaged.

actually... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935643)

...most people put them into the plastic bags provided at the produce section. they just don't toss them into the cart

Re:What about paper bags? (4, Insightful)

MarioMax (907837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935389)

Just an observation: Doesn't food usually have its own packaging/wrappers to protect it from the filthy bags?

Fruits and vegetables don't usually come prepackaged, at least in the US. Most meats are packaged, but also tend to leak. Just about everything else comes prepackaged.

Re:What about paper bags? (3, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935383)

Just use plastic. The carbon footprint is lower than paper evidently [uoregon.edu] . People think paper is better because it can decompose, but it doesn't in landfills buried under tons of other trash without air for the bacteria. And it doesn't really matter: litter is ugly but harmless compared to ocean acidification or climate change.

Re:What about paper bags? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935415)

Which is why I burn it... it keeps all that carbon right there.

Re:What about paper bags? (1)

MarioMax (907837) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935495)

From the sounds of it, the cotton and paper industries are in need of manufacturing improvements of some kind.

Re:What about paper bags? (4, Informative)

s0nicfreak (615390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935583)

The paper bags are reusable at home though; plastic bags are really good for little else than trash bags, and the store bags have become so thin that they tear by the time I get my groceries put away. Paper bags, on the other hand, can be reused for countless things; I make them into books, cards, writing paper, etc. etc. Also you can throw paper bags into a home compost pile.

Re:What about paper bags? (3, Insightful)

spike hay (534165) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935661)

The real problem with plastic is the creation of plastic marine debris. Plastic bags are the #1 source of plastic marine debris, which is quite harmful to ocean life.

Re:What about paper bags? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935665)

If I think one of my fabric (usually plasti-fabric) shopping bags has become dirty, then I wash it. I don't check too much to see if it actually has become dirty, because an extra washing ain't gonna hurt and hell, maybe it is dirty.

I get my bags for $1.50 each when I go by Daiso, which for me is located in the Serramonte Plaza but which for others might better be located online. People comment on how attractive they are, which I find bemusing but which might matter to some readers.

Y R Peeple So Stupid? (1)

Snotnose (212196) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935137)

This was on the news a week or two back. Mine go through the wash maybe once a month. Is it really all that hard to realize the things get all sorts of tasty but nasty without refrigeration stuff in them?
 

Sick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935141)

People are sick regardless what you do.

Occum's Razor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935143)

It's all teh buttsecks.

Corretlate with more cities to prove or disprove (5, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935149)

There are many many cities in both the USA and Canada (and probably Europe) that have banned plastic bags. If you want to prove your case, then you should be able to point to simmilar correlation of increase of illness in those cities with the start of these bans as well. If, on the other hand, there is no such correlation in these other cities, then this has nothing to do with plastic bags at all and is something else happening in SF.

I would be willing to wager the latter.

Oh USA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935155)

This story reminds me of South Park episode "Medicinal Fried Chicken" where the ban of obviously unhealthy chicken products resulted in a dramatic increase of testicle cancer..

payed for by billionaires? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935169)

This must be another anti environment study payed for by billionaire.

Re:payed for by billionaires? (1)

Copper Nikus (1615089) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935563)

This must be another anti environment study payed for by billionaire.

Surely not by the billionaires who own the paper mills.

Darwinism (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935171)

If you put a leaky package of ground beef or chicken with your fruits and then proceed to eat said fruits after you get home from the store without washing them, then you're at fault for getting sick.

You also have to look at it this way... what's a few sick/dead people worth over the fact that there will less bags taking up landfill space and be on this planet for thousands of years not decomposing? worth it.

Re:Darwinism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935435)

If you dont wash your veggies when you get home no matter what, you are a pretty gross person. The amount of goo on the fresh fruits and veggies at the store is insane. Anyone with any education in hygene knows you wash fruits and veggies when you get home.

Re:Darwinism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935627)

Go watch people select fruit from a grocery store some day. Most people touch and inspect a few before they select one. By the time you get your fruit you can be assured it has been touched by many random people. You don't know where those all those hands were.

Re:Darwinism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935619)

"... what's a few sick/dead people worth over the fact that there will less bags taking up landfill space"

Compost.

Oh wait no, we special treat our dead with chemicals and stuff that slow decomp and make opened caskets a nightmare if they leak into the soil. /sigh

Authors are lawyers (5, Informative)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935181)

If you go to the source paper [ssrn.com] you'll notice both authors are from law school. So, that being said, why are they writing about a medical issue and using questionable statistics?

Here is the abstract:

"Recently, many jurisdictions have implemented bans or imposed taxes upon plastic grocery bags on environmental grounds. San Francisco County was the first major US jurisdiction to enact such a regulation, implementing a ban in 2007. There is evidence, however, that reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria. We examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of the San Francisco ban. We find that ER visits spiked when the ban went into effect. Relative to other counties, ER admissions increase by at least one fourth, and deaths exhibit a similar increase. "

Re:Authors are lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935335)

If you go to the source paper [ssrn.com] you'll notice both authors are from law school. So, that being said, why are they writing about a medical issue and using questionable statistics?

Is it actually relevant that they are in law right now, or is this ad hominem? Would you have been less inclined to criticize if both had stopped at their Ph.D. Economics instead of continuing into law?

Re:Authors are lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935471)

Somebody's trying to turn a genuine criticism into a petty one.

Here's a clue: Nothing in the original post qualifies as an insult or anything but a question as to the qualifications of the authors.

Simply trying to make it into an ad hominem says more about how it is a valid criticism, because you'd rather try to get us to ignore it.

Thanks.

Re:Authors are lawyers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935371)

If you go to the source paper [ssrn.com] you'll notice both authors are from law school. So, that being said, why are they writing about a medical issue and using questionable statistics?

Unintended effects of legislation is an important study area of legal scholarship. However, getting expert help on non-legal subjects like stats and medicine is obviously a good idea.

Re:Authors are lawyers (2)

snarkh (118018) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935407)

Presumably, raw meat and such would be in a plastic bag or package within the reusable bag and whatever leaks would be a small amount.
After that it needs to touch something that you eat raw without washing too much. It is not impossible, but does not seem too likely to cause problems. Certainly, the same thing can happen within a single use bag.

The authors, on the other hand, are claiming huge percentage increases in food poisoning. Had to believe.

Re:Authors are lawyers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935509)

That's kind of argument the oil companies have been making against Al Gore and the AGW campaign. Why are politicians talking about a scientific issue and using questionable statistics?

Let's discuss the message, rather than the messenger, k?

Re:Authors are lawyers (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935693)

1) who is paying them

2) it is plausible they are cherry picking data so they can sue on behalf of people who get sick

3) did they have an objective epidemiologist on the team. If they just went through the databases without one, they can easily find whatever patterns they are looking for.

4) Did they have an objective statition on the team. Again, it is easy to find patterns.

Re:Authors are lawyers (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935715)

First off, you're asking a leading question, which is a logical fallacy.

Second, you do make a good point.

Finally, I like how the doctor in the summary gives the answer: "Your explanation sounds like conjecture and has no verifiable numbers to back it up! I propose a better solution, which is also conjecture and has no verifiable numbers to back it up, but I think it's probably right."

Easy Solution - make the bags out of brass (5, Interesting)

emil (695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935191)

A "bag" of woven metal could take advantage of the oligodynamic effect [wikipedia.org] . Problem solved.

Re:Easy Solution - make the bags out of brass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935373)

A "bag" of woven metal could take advantage of the oligodynamic effect [wikipedia.org] . Problem solved.

Sure, for a $100 shopping bag.

Re:Easy Solution - make the bags out of brass (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935671)

Or bamboo!

Bag bans are foolish feel-goodism (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935231)

This is the wrong approach to environmentalism. We need to focus on the big stuff, not on feel-good tokenism like bag bans or super-duper biodegradable coffee cups.

Does the small stuff help? Yes. But we are stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

Want to make disposable bags less of a problem? Let's encourage people to reuse them for small wastebaskets and dog poop pickup. This keeps purpose-bought bags from being made and out of the landfills. I also use them as a packing material, in place of wadded paper or packing peanuts.

Chinese factories are busy pumping untreated toxic effluent directly into rivers which drain to the oceans. Let's stop pretending that Mother Earth's greatest menace is a plastic bag.

What is the ecological footprint of a hospital admission? Maybe, for reasons described in TFA, bag bans aren't quite as bad as everybody says - we still know they're getting people sick because busy people don't always wash bags properly - and people as a whole never will. The cross-contamination vector has been well studied by the foodservice industry.

Let's focus on real environmentalism, not on tokenism designed to make yuppies feel good about themselves.

Re:Bag bans are foolish feel-goodism (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935311)

I've found that some stores have bags too crappy to re-use. Walmart bags I keep because I reuse them for lots of stuff, but Wegmans bags are much thinner and half of them are ripped open by the time I get home and unload the groceries. I like the model that Aldi and BJ's use - bags cost extra, but help yourself to the leftover cardboard boxes that they received the food in. It's great for small to moderate loads and isn't too much of a problem for large loads of groceries.

Re:Bag bans are foolish feel-goodism (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935461)

Target bags are more durable than Wal-Mart bags.

Re:Bag bans are foolish feel-goodism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935623)

Strongly agree - I make a point to save any target bag, but Wal-Mart ones get recycled/trash can duty.

Re:Bag bans are foolish feel-goodism (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935707)

I don't know who Aldi or BJ are, but my local cooperative market (in Ukiah) also uses the same model. Sometimes I forget my bags, and then I end up with boxes. They go in the blue can and they go away for free, so I win.

Re:Bag bans are foolish feel-goodism (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935341)

The idea of doing small things is to get people to think.

When they're all used to doing small things, then we can move onto bigger ones.

Intestinal infection? San Francisco? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935235)

Butt-plunder capital of the universe eh? Duh!

Now with the obligatory gay-bashing out of the way...

Seriously though. You have a bunch of Californian douchebags who're CONVINCED they're doing it right. Do we really expect these full-grown children to back down or, heavens forefend, even CONSIDER that something they did might actually have been a Bad Idea?

As with pretty much anyone being challenged, publicly, on their actions, they're going to deny it at LEAST until hard scientific evidence proves otherwise. And even then, some of these people will fight rearguard actions (pardon the pun) for years or even decades afterward.

For them, the point isn't that people are dying.

The point is that THEY are infallible! They CAN'T be wrong! So these others MUST be attacking them for some kind of sick kicks.

Wash the damn bags! (2)

malchus842 (741252) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935239)

Simple. Do what I do. Wash your bags regularly. Problem solved. I haven't had a problem in the two years I've exclusively used my own bags.

Re:Wash the damn bags! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935313)

As someone who works at a grocery I can tell you these reusable bag customers DO NOT wash them. Ever. They smell worse than neoprene.

Re:Wash the damn bags! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935331)

Overworked career-oriented supermom isn't going to do that. Not happening. No amount of poster campaigns will get those bags washed as often as they should (which can be each use, if meat juice leaks - which you may not even know).

The choice is between disposable bags and hospital admissions.

Stop fighting human nature. If we could change it then we would be making real environmental progress, not trimming little bits (like bags) around the edges of a much larger problem.

Whoa whoa whoa (4, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935253)

Hold it right there with your reasonable alternate hypothesis. We already have the answer we want. Plastic bag ban = neohippie commies = Liberals = certain death.

Sincerely,
Roger Ailes

Re:Whoa whoa whoa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935429)

Most likely, the authors concluded, this was due to the fact that people were putting their food into dirty reusable bags and not washing them afterward.

I especially enjoyed the part where they concluded that people are stabbing themselves in the dick because they're fucking morons, so it must be those darn librullllz and their liberal liberalness liberalling up AMERICAN plastic bags, the bags God Himself invented.

Re:Whoa whoa whoa (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935555)

Right because the guy who proposes the alternative has no bias on this issue...wait, the guy suggesting the alternative hypothesis happens to work for the city which might be on the hook for those medical expenses if the hypothesis is correct. Note that the argument for the alternative hypothesis looks a lot like the type of arguments the tobacco companies made against the early studies linking cigarettes to cance.

Re:Whoa whoa whoa (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935639)

See, that's because they aren't thinking ahead. Imagine this scenario if you will:
1. Liberals ban plastic bags.
2. Liberals are lazy and don't wash their reusable bags.
3. Liberals get sick and die from the dirty bags.
4. San Francisco, a bastion of everything Republicans hate, becomes a ghost town as the evil liberals die off, and takes Berzerkely with it. Haight-Ashbury gone, Castro gone,
5. That makes it easy for the GOP to dominate both the California state government and the presidency (due to those juicy 55 electoral votes).

So if this story is true, Roger Ailes would be wise to keep his mouth shut, or even encourage the bans to be expanded to New York City, Boston, and other liberal cities.

Yeah, a paper on public health by a law professor (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935273)

whose other papers include:

- legal abortion turned your daughter into a herpes-ridden slut
- helping poor people treat their diabetes just leads to more fatties, yo
- health insurance mandates are so bad that they drive people to drink
- hey, you know what would really solve our health care problems? Tort reform.

Sniff test (2)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935329)

We've known for some time that reusable grocery bags were like keyboards - absolutely filthy. If you force people to use unsanitary containers to carry their food it only makes sense that their could be a corresponding increase in the risk of infection.

Think about it, we have food sanitation standards for stores, we have medical sanitation standards for good reasons that can both be enforced when someone is supervising someone else. Remove the supervisor and people fall back to laziness because that is human nature. Logically, is there really any other expected outcome?

I think this passes the sniff test and should be tested more to see if it has merit. I say this as someone who originally supported the idea of the ban and still supports banning things like Styrofoam cups. Science needs to be put in front of emotion and allowed to run the course.

Re:Sniff test (2)

Copper Nikus (1615089) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935649)

We've known for some time that reusable grocery bags were like keyboards - absolutely filthy.

I think they need to look at the cooking habits of the people there. Cooking kiils germs, but maybe the enlightened people of San Francisco are more likely to eat food raw for the sake of the planet?

Re:Sniff test (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935691)

If you force people to use unsanitary containers to carry their food it only makes sense that their could be a corresponding increase in the risk of infection.

That is not what is happening. No one is forcing people to use unsanitary containers. They have the option to wash their shopping bags. Fairly high-quality shopping bags are available for a buck and a half if you look around a bit (flea markets, variety stores, etc) so it's unreasonable to assume that any significant burden is being placed. They also take up very little space in the wash, and the synthetic ones don't even need to be machine dried. They have very little surface area, so they spin very dry and will rapidly air dry in most conditions.

I think this passes the sniff test and should be tested more to see if it has merit.

Yes, sniff the bags and if they smell funky, tell the people to wash their dirty fucking bags.

killing me softly with his song (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935355)

killing me softly, with his song.

Watch what happens in Austin (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935367)

We'll have another great data point soon, since a similar ban is about to take effect in Austin, Texas.

Re:Watch what happens in Austin (2)

radiumsoup (741987) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935535)

I live in the suburbs of Austin, and will continue to shop at stores outside the city limits in order to keep my "single use" plastic bags (the ones that are, in fact, recyclable, sometimes made of biodegradable vegetable products, and are ALWAYS reused by my household for cat litter/dog crap pickup and disposal.)

Here's the REALLY stupid part of this all... if all bags had remained the Wal-Mart style of thick recyclable stuff, we wouldn't have a problem, since there already exists suitable recycling facilities to handle them. If all bags had moved to biodegradable, then they could be composted and again, no problem. The problem now exists in the difference between the biodegradable bags which cannot be recycled and the recyclable bags which do not biodegrade. There's no single stream answer for the dichotomy, so the answer they came up with is "ban all single use bags"... All they really had to do is ban the use of one or the other, and provide a process for recycling or mulching the bags that remained. Hell, the local HEBs all have the "recycle your shopping bags here" drop off boxes when you enter the store, just in case you can't figure out on your own that they're recyclable.

Mountain out of a molehill turned into a sweeping restriction on commerce. Color me surprised that it's happening in Austin, where the "metro train" is frequently empty... but hey, at least we have feel-good public transport options, right?

Slippery Slope (2, Funny)

chill (34294) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935375)

San Francisco is rapidly on the path that only can lead to one conclusion: They're all getting on the "B" Ark.

Re:Slippery Slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935597)

No no, they're going to Venus on rocket ships. There's lots of free land on Venus.

Feel-good "activism" (2)

concealment (2447304) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935385)

Actual problem: there's too many people, using too much land, and not only can nature not keep pace through renewing resources, but we're eliminating the habitats of species. The solution is to have fewer people, which requires we rethink our concept of "freedom," and to focus on cradle-to-grave handling of technology to reduce pollution.

That's taboo.

Fake solution: plastic bag bans, CFL lightbulbs, carbon caps, and "green" disposable junk you buy at stores.

It doesn't work but it (a) feels good and (b) doesn't interrupt our busy lifestyles.

Re:Feel-good "activism" (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935467)

2 of those things have an objectively measurable positive impact, 2 of them are actually junk. I'm sorry you're willing to dismiss functional ideas because you mentally associate them with "the wrong people".

Re:Feel-good "activism" (0)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935653)

The solution is to have fewer people

My advice, for everyone who thinks this way, is to show some leadership and drop dead.

Incoming politics! (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935409)

I predict that within a week, at least one right-leaning website is going to be publishing a column using this to attack the idea of environmentalism and arguing that this proves liberalism endangers human lives.

Re:Incoming politics! (3, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935587)

article is written by lawyers, probably lobbyists for a grocery chain, the whole story smells like a pile of bull shit

nonsense, the story reeks of vested interest (2)

dan_in_dublin (833271) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935419)

isnt this story where there was a sick girl, sharing a hotel room with lots of other people, the girl used a reusable plastic bag from a store as a bin liner in the bathroom and after a number of her room mates fell ill they found some germs on the plastic bag bin liner it's nonsense to suggest either - the bag is a more likely reason the illness spread than any other reason that comes with sharing a hotel room - that bags in general spread illness - that the exact same thing cant happen if we dont re-use plastic bags (I was using store plastic bags as bin liners long before there was a push to re-use plastic bags) this is simple that a person with a contagious illness spread it to people in her proximity, and some manufacturer of plastic bags has jumped on that to create a story against recycling plastic bags. clearer the manufacturer has a vested interest in plastic bags not being reused, shame on the 'researchers' who lent their name to this

Re:nonsense, the story reeks of vested interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935525)

A couple points

* Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright do not work for a plastic bag manufacturer, so your entire treatise is flawed
* Your anecdotal story is irrelevant to the discussion.
* You write like you have diarrhea. A bunch of stuff plopped out into an incoherent mess and splattered, but there was no substance to it.
* Use capital letters.

Thanks.

Re:nonsense, the story reeks of vested interest (1)

dan_in_dublin (833271) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935751)

sure, what's more likely
  1. 1. lawyers spontaneously take an interest in health implications of plastic bag recycling, especially for implausible scenarios such as someone coughing into a plastic bag before using that bag for food packaging
  2. 2. vested interest attempts to establish a narrative on plastic bag recycling to influence public opinion against a sound environmental measure, perhaps in view of the result that plastic bag consumption drops by 99% in places which introduce incentivies for plastic bag recycling

Authors answered their own question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935423)

What a misleading headline... and a way to brainwash the reader.

Are plastic bag bans making people sick? No.

You answered your own question:
"Most likely, the authors concluded, this was due to the fact that people were putting their food into dirty reusable bags and not washing them afterward."

Re:Authors answered their own question. (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935743)

Potato / Potahto

Most likely re-using dirty bags are the culprit. Perhaps not. But even if so... the pastic bag ban is causing the increase of re-usable bags so it's not really wrong to place some of the blame there.

So... it would be like saying during prohibition, that the ban of the sale of alcohol caused more alcohol-related health issues and deaths. Sure, you COULD blame it on criminal elements making toxic liquor and people breaking the law to drink it. But without the ban, people would have safe access to "normal" liquor. So blaming the ban is apt.

Or finding out that after a "Ban on cellphones in cars" there was actually a hypothetical increase in cellphone-related-car-accidents. Because the idiots are trying to hide their phone while using it so cops don't see (instead of using a headset / bluetooth / speakerphone) and thus paying even LESS attention than normal. You COULD say that... stupid people doing something stupid increases accidents. But... the ban on cellphones is what's causing more stupid people to act even stupider.

NOTE: I'm not saying the cellphone ban is wrong or causing more accidents. It's purely hypothetical.

What's an "uptick"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935425)

I presume they meant 'increase', but some stupid journalist couldn't remember that oh-so-difficult to remember word a few years ago, so made up a STUPID new one - 'uptick'.

Everyone repeat yet again: (1)

Hartree (191324) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935443)

"Correlation does not equal causation."

It may be true, but a surprising result requires equally compelling proof.

There may well be something very different that just happens to track in time with the bag ban.

What about plastic bags? (0)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year and a half ago | (#42935453)

Could be a nocebo effect [wikipedia.org] case? if enough people think that plastic bags are bad in a way they don't understand, and keep getting food on them, could became sick by their own. Seem to be happening to smokers [impactednurse.com]

Intestinal... SanFrancisco (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935537)

Can you think of another way an intestinal disease might spread in San Francisco? Think hard. Think very hard.

Global warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42935605)

Plastic bags take carbon out of circulation because they don't decompose unlike paper bags. If you want to slow down global warming, you will use as many plastic bags as possible.

Even better, carbon dioxide should be pumped out of thin air and turned into diamonds. We could build mountains of diamonds, which will never decompose, and save the environment on the side.

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