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Study: Reusable bags pose health risk

Your eco-friendly shopping bag could be making you sick, a studysays. But before you make the switch back to plastic, you might wantto consider the source.

An alarming 15-page paper, published on the Web site for Canada'sEnvironment and Plastics Industry Council, concluded that reusablegrocery bags are "a breeding ground for bacteria and pose a publichealth risk" due to high counts of yeast, molds and bacteria.

The potential hazards include "food poisoning ... bacterial boils,allergic reactions, triggering of asthma attacks, and earinfections," according to the paper. Plastic shopping bags, on theother hand, may have turned the ocean into a garbage dump, but they're"more hygienic than reusables," EPIC said.

Droplets leaking from bloody meat can, indeed, transfer from onesurface to another. And folded bags can create a moist environmentthat helps bacteria grow.

But if you start worrying about getting an ear infection from yourshopping bag, you're being paranoid, said Harley Rotbart, a professorof microbiology and pediatric infectious diseases at the University ofColorado School of Medicine. He called the study "a classic middleschool science fair experiment where swabs are taken to randomsurfaces and, shockingly, germs are found on those surfaces."

The bottom line: "Germs are everywhere, and under certaincircumstances, germs on surfaces can cause human infections," Rotbartsaid. "Common sense has to prevail. Disgusting reusable bags shouldbe washed in hot water (and bleach)."

Don't forget to wash your hands.