Thanks to proposed legislation scheduled for a vote May 23, shoppers in the Los Angeles area will no longer be able to get disposable plastic shopping bags in stores. But what environmentalists see as a win for landfills may also be a loss for public health.
Oregon researchers discovered norovirus — “the perfect human pathogen” — Wednesday on reusable shopping bags that were left in a hotel bathroom, reports the Los Angeles Times. The virus is believed to have caused an outbreak of diarrhea, vomiting and nausea that afflicted nine of thirteen girls on a youth soccer team, along with parent chaperones and members of the girls’ families.
If passed, the council’s ban — which affects both plastic and paper bags — will take effect after a six-month warning period.
The norovirus causes an “estimated 21 million acute cases of gastroenteritis annually … causing the deaths of 200,000 children annually,” the LA Times adds.
As Oregon epidemiologist told MSNBC, “We wash our clothes when they’re dirty; we should wash our bags, too.”
In 2010, University of Arizona researchers tested 84 bags collected from shoppers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tucson, More than half were contaminated with bacteria. Twelve percent of the bags contained E. coli, a sign of fecal matter, and many contained even more dangerous pathogens.