To reuse or not to reuse?

The New York Times reported today that even reusable grocery bags may be harmful for the environment. There are preliminary studies (not done by the government) that found the bags might contain lead, which may seep into groundwater when thrown away.

“There is no evidence that these bags pose an immediate threat to the public, and none of the bags sold by New York City’s best-known grocery stores have been implicated. But reports from around the country have trickled in recently about reusable bags, mostly made in China, that contained potentially unsafe levels of lead,” The Times reported.

But New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer wrote a letter to the FDA urging them to look into it. And a journalist in Denver raised another concern when she took some reusable bags to an infectious disease expert at the University of Colorado Hospital. All the bags tested positive for bacteria, several of which had high enough levels to be considered a health-risk.

“It would be a level of concern getting on your food, on your hands, too,” Dr. Michelle Barron said. “Digging in there, you touch, rub your eyes … all that good stuff. … You can have a terrible diarrhea, stomachache, vomiting. Not a fun thing to have. … We’re trying to be environmental. I fully support that. But not at the cost of your health.”

Some suggestions for those who use reusable grocery bags: wipe them down after a trip to the store, wash them periodically, and keep an eye out for more information on their risks, if any.

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