Plastic bags are not making you healthier.
In fact, they may actually be a major contributor to your health risk, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Plastic bags are an increasingly important consumer item because of their low price and widespread use in the home, but the results of this study provide no evidence that they are an effective strategy for the prevention of plastic ingestion,” said lead author Michael J. Sperling, an assistant professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University.
“Our results indicate that the long-term effect of plastic bags on human health is uncertain.”
Researchers from Cornell University and the National Institute of Health in the United States used a variety of different laboratory models to assess the effects of plastic bag use on human physiology.
In a sample of 40 healthy people, they found that plastic bags were associated with increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased risk of developing asthma, and increased risk for cancer.
However, they did not find evidence that plastic bag consumption was associated with a higher risk of cancer.
The researchers also found that, in healthy adults, eating the plastic bag for more than 30 days did not increase the risk of breast cancer.
“Overall, our results suggest that plastic waste may not be a significant source of plastic toxicity, although there are still many unanswered questions about the health effects of this material,” said study co-author Richard A. Nolen, a professor of microbiiology and immunobiology and director of the Cornell Center for Foodborne Diseases and Nutrition.
“But the important thing to remember is that it’s important to use plastic bags responsibly and safely, especially when disposing of them.”
Sperlings research also suggests that plastic recycling systems may not offer the same protection to consumers as other types of recycling systems.
In the study, the researchers used a single-species, genetically engineered strain of B. burgdorferi that had been found to be resistant to the chemical plastic-specific ribosome inhibitors (RSAIs), which are commonly used in plastic recycling.
This strain is known to cause serious health problems in people with genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and lung cancer.
But Sperls research also showed that it was the other bacteria in the human gut that was most likely to cause health problems.
He said the team plans to continue to explore this new strain and to study how it interacts with other bacteria, including the type of bacterial strain that causes colitis, which is linked to the risk for colorectal cancer.
Researchers also found a link between plastic bags and obesity.
One of the most important reasons for their increased use is that they were easy to recycle, said Sperlin.
“Most plastic bags can be reused, so you don’t have to spend hours sorting and packaging them and making them in plastic bags,” he said.
“This plastic bag is easy to reuse.”