Another chapter in the ongoing study of the law of unintended consequences.
Ramesh Ponnuru highlights the latest example of the law of unintended consequences: the disgusting consequences of feel-good laws that ban the use of plastic bags.
Such bans have lead to the proliferation of reusable bags and, those bags may be visible symbols of eco-consciousness, they are also gross.
Last May, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported:
"A reusable grocery bag left in a hotel
bathroom caused an outbreak of norovirus-induced diarrhea and nausea that
struck nine of 13 members of a girls’ soccer team in October, Oregon
researchers reported Wednesday."
This is not surprising when you consider that a 2011 study, found that 51
percent of reusable bags in California coliform bacteria.
The problem appears to be the
habits of the reusers. Seventy-five percent said they keep meat and vegetables in the same bag. When bags were stored in
hot car trunks for two hours, the bacteria grew tenfold.
The result, of course: a steaming pile of Eeeeeew. Yes, it’s true that if the bags are washed, 99.9
percent of the bacteria can be
eliminated. The problem? Only about 3 percent of the bags users ever washed the
bags. So the news is bad and getting worse.
Klick and Joshua Wright, who are law professors at the University of
Pennsylvania and George Mason University, found that emergency-room
admissions related to E. coli infections increased in San Francisco after the
ban. … The San Francisco ban was also associated with increases in salmonella
and other bacterial infections. Similar effects were found in other California
towns that adopted such laws."
Here’s where the news
gets especially grim:
Klick and Wright
estimate that the San Francisco ban results in a 46 percent increase in deaths
from foodborne illnesses, or 5.5 more of them each year.
They then run through a cost-benefit analysis employing the same estimate of the value of a human life
that the Environmental Protection Agency uses when evaluating regulations that
are supposed to save lives. They conclude that the anti-plastic-bag
policies can’t pass the test -- and that’s before counting the higher
health-care costs they generate.
But whoever said that laws primarily to raise the
self-esteem on liberals were supposed to make sense?