David Nix 
Member since Jun 24, 2010


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Re: “UA Scientists: Reusable Grocery Bags Covered in Germs

I doubt that the researchers can cite a single case where infection resulted from use of reusable bags. The same researchers have written about environmental contamination of washing machines, desks, computer keyboards, telephones, etc...
As someone who works with bacterial diseases, I have to dispute the public health ramifications of this work. Although, coliforms are detected, the actual counts of bacteria are not typically reported. I have used reusable bags for years, and I don't treat my washing machine with bleach at all. Nonetheless, no one in my family has had problems with infection. Bacterial loads needed to cause infection are often relatively high and it is quite difficult to cause infection in healthy individuals with the pathogens that they are reporting about. While it is true that infection can occur with lower bacterial loads in persons who have a compromised immune system, broken skin, etc., you still can't get infection without a substantial bacterial load. Perhaps their work should be reported in peer review science literature before being released to the public. Even then, statements about public health risk should be withheld until proper studies are done. These types of articles taken out of context are alarming to the public and may lead to concerns about the use of reusable bags. Certainly the sponsor of the study is happy with the results since they would like to sell NEW plastic bags by the billions.

As a parent, I would like to see a good future for my children and perhaps their children. If we don't do something about disposable plastics and our thirst for petroleum products, the future is concerning. I have participated in clean ups sponsored by Tucson Clean and Beautiful and you wouldn't believe the number of plastic bags and similar products that litter our city. A more balanced view of relative risks is appropriate, and such balance is not usually conveyed in the press releases. The researchers need to do a better job of stating limitations of their findings and particularly extrapolating their finding to public health risk. Moreover, newspaper reporters also need to tone down the sensationalized message.

David E. Nix, Pharm.D.
Professor
Infectious Disease Pharmacist

Posted by David Nix on 06/24/2010 at 11:28 AM

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