Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plastic bags are threat to life

With great pride and hope for our future, I commend local students Lexi Shapiro, Chase England and Maggie Williams in their effort to exercise their civic duty, to utilize the tools of local democracy to educate us all about the problem of the widespread use of plastic bags and to create this opportunity for a local referendum to ban the retail distribution of single-use plastic bags in Hailey.

Plastic can only degrade down to the presence of microscopic-size particles of plastic. These small bits of petrochemicals wind up, like sand, filtered by organisms way down low on the food chain, including bottom-dwelling bivalves such as mollusks and clams. This microscopic plastic slowly climbs its way back up the food chain in a process called "biomagnification." This inevitably leads to the consumption of accumulated plastic particles by all sorts of animals, birds and fish --and eventually, humans.

In biomedical and evolutionary terms, these are "new-to-nature" molecules that have not been tested for safety in human consumption (particularly in pregnancy). Even biodegradable bags are functionally useless here, because we do not have a commercial-scale composting facility. There is no physical separation between our bodies and the environment in which we live. Even the long-term health of our economy depends on the health of our environment.

I support a ban on the distribution of single-use plastic bags by Hailey merchants. It is time we begin to make decisions with an eye to our long-term future. The refinement of petroleum into plastic is a convenience that is not worth its toxicity.

To these students, thank you for taking the initiative on this.

Dr. Tom Archie


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