What started as a ceremonial gesture to appease the radicals who influence the Solana Beach City Council, has now turned into a possible health epidemic. Lesa Heebner’s radicals scared the rest of the City Council into passing a ban, using religious groups, anti-progress non-profits, and animal-rights groups, to produce on-line videos. The thrust of Heebner’s message is that plastic bags kill whales — her solution was to coerce the Council into passing a city-wide plastic bag ban.
The ban was a poorly thought out ordinance. In addition to banning plastic bags, the Solana Beach City Council assessed a 10-cent per bag tax on PAPER bags (collected at the grocery store register). The ultimate goal is to ban paper bags as well. The radicals in Heebner’s camp want to force consumers and Solana Beach residents into bringing reusable bags to the grocery stores. There is a problem though — reusable bags are breeding grounds for E-Coli and other harmful bacteria. Two university professors from the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University recently published a study detailing the harmful effects of the San Francisco County plastic bag ban:
These bans are designed to induce individuals to use reusable grocery bags, in the hope that a reduction in the use of plastic bags will lead to less litter. Recent studies, however, suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli. If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death.
We examine the pattern of emergency room admissions related to bacterial intestinal infections, especially those related to E. coli around the implementation of the San Francisco County ban in October 2007. We find that ER admissions increase by at least one fourth relative to other California counties. Subsequent bans in other California municipalities resulted in similar increases. An examination of deaths related to intestinal infections shows a comparable increase.
Using standard estimates of the statistical value of life, we show that the health costs associated with the San Francisco ban swamp any budgetary savings from reduced litter. This assessment is unlikely to be reversed even if fairly liberal estimates of the other environmental benefits are included.
Reusable grocery store bags can kill people while plastic bags don’t. The sad thing is that Heebner and the rest of the City Council knew this; we told them about the Los Angeles County study (right here on SDROSTRA) before they voted to pass the ordinance.
Clearly litter bugs should be punished but the Solana Beach plastic bag ban is going to result in dead residents. What started out as a violation of property rights is now turning into a public health crisis. Lesa Heebner’s plastic bag ban needs to be repealed…NOW…before the bodies start piling up in the emergency rooms.