Are Bans on Plastic Bags Making People Sick? Not So Fast

Everyone loves counterintuitive studies. They make for catchy headlines. And so, last fall, when two academics posted a working paper suggesting that San Francisco’s eco-friendly ban on plastic bags might actually be killing people, it was too good to ignore.

The paper, by Wharton’s Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, found that food-borne illnesses in San Francisco increased 46 percent after the bag ban went into effect in 2007—with no such uptick in neighboring counties. Most likely, the authors concluded, this was due to the fact that people were putting their food into dirty reusable bags and not washing them afterward.

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