Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility support Laredo’s Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban
Published: Monday, July 7, 2014 3:28 PM CDT in the Laredo Morning Times Newspaper (http://www.lmtonline.com/)
To the editor:
The Laredo City Council is on the right track with the new partial ban on single use plastic bags.
Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility, the largest state-wide environmental advocacy group led by healthcare professionals, applaud this important initiative as a way to reduce waste in our landfills and waterways, save tax payer dollars and protect our environment.
We were therefore disheartened to read the Laredo Morning Times front-page article on June 23, “Studies: Used bags deadly” This article relies on flawed science to assert that plastic bag bans, which have been adopted by well over 100 municipalities nationwide, may be dangerous to public health by encouraging people to use bags that harbor bacteria.
The Laredo Morning Times article states that a 2012 study “found that San Francisco’s plastic bag ban lead to a 46 percent increase in deaths due to bacterial infections.”
This statement is erroneous and misleading. The 2012 study, by researchers Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, provides no proof that reusable bags cause illness; the science is weak and the speculation irresponsible.
As the San Francisco Department of Health pointed out in their response to the Klick and Wright study, the lack of peer review, direct causation, direct patient testing, patient controls, and the insufficient nature of Emergency Room data make the study of dubious value.
The Department summarized its response.
“The idea that widespread use of reusable bags may cause gastrointestinal infections if they are not regularly cleaned is plausible.
However, the hypothesis that there is a signiﬁcant increase in gastrointestinal food-borne illnesses and deaths due to reusable bags has not been tested, much less demonstrated in this study.”
They went on to say that, while reminders about safe food-handling and transport may be useful, the claims made by authors of the study were unnecessarily alarming and a disservice to the public.
Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility urge the Laredo community to embrace the partial ban on single use plastic bags.
Plastic bags, while seemingly harmless, can cause damage and drain our resources.
Plastic bags can block storm drains and waste water treatment systems, for example.
The bags take hundreds of years to decompose in our landfills, and they can harm or kill wildlife.
To reduce any chance of infection from reusable bags, use common sense.
Regularly washing reusable bags, continuing to use permissible plastic bags for transporting meat and fish, and separating meat from vegetables are important strategies to prevent food-borne illness.
For the overall health of our environment and community, the plastic bag ban is beneficial and commendable.
Lisa Doggett, MD, MPH, FAAFP is a family physician and co-president of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility. Chris Masey, MBA, Director of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility.