Reusing Plastic Shopping Bags Can Make You Sick

Plastic bags are apparently worse for your health than previously thought. In a study published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers explain how a reusable plastic shopping bag was responsible for transmitting a stomach flu virus between soccer teammates. It sounds unlikely, but the epidemiologists studying the small flu outbreak found that particles of bodily fluids (such as blood) can attach to an item like a plastic bag and live there for hours, days, or even weeks. In fact, that's exactly what happened.

NPR reports that the scientists discovered that the norovirus in question was passed from one teenage soccer player to another when one vomited in a bathroom where a reusable plastic bag full of take-out food had been placed. (Obviously, it goes without saying that you shouldn't store food in a bathroom, and that you should throw it out if someone is violently ill around it.) While the teen had no direct contact with the bag, it was apparently picked up by an adult, and the food was distributed to the rest of the team, who then also became quite ill. The bag isn't the only culprit in this story, but it definitely played a critical—and rather disgusting—role in spreading infectious disease among more than a dozen teenage girls.

Studies have found bacteria in plastic bags before, so while this is nothing new, it's a reminder to wash out plastic bags—or better yet, refuse to use them at all.

Read the full story on the NPR website.

Photo via johnmcga on Flickr

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